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Same faith, different practice

Marshall Allen

GLENDALE -- Armenian orthodox and Protestant Christians celebrate

Christmas Sunday. The celebrations highlight their similarities and



Armenian Christians have celebrated Christmas on Jan. 6 since 325,

when the Emperor Constantine decreed it should be celebrated on that

date. Jan. 6 which also marks the Epiphany, or Baptism of Christ.

Orthodox and Protestant Armenians have much in common when celebrating


Christmas. Most noticeably, the date, which follows the Julian calendar.

For Armenian Protestants, celebrating on Jan. 6 is significant because

the group lives in both the Western and Armenian worlds, said the Rev.

Daniel Albarian of Christian Outreach to Armenians Church. The church,

where between 300 to 600 people attend on a given Sunday, is culturally

Armenian, but theologically Protestant. Albarian estimates that around

10% to 15% of Armenians are Protestant. Their choosing to celebrating

Christmas on Jan. 6 is a link to Armenian culture, he said.


Both groups also make Christmas less commercial by giving gifts on

Dec. 25 or New Year’s Day. The Rev. Vazken Atmadjian, of St. Mary’s

Armenian Apostolic Church said that by giving gifts earlier, Christmas

becomes a purely religious day, instead of a commercial one.

“We believe that Christ’s birth is one of the largest celebrations in

our church,” Atmadjian said. “It shouldn’t be mixed with other things.”

A key difference in the way the two groups organize their Christmas

service is that Protestants don’t practice “Chrorhnek,” or Blessing of


the Water. As a part of the orthodox service, pastors bless the holy

water with holy oil to symbolize Jesus’ baptism. Then, members of the

congregation drink the water, Atmadjian said.

They don’t bless the water at Albarian’s church because it doesn’t fit

with Protestant theology, he said.

Although the two groups celebrate Christmas on the same date, they do

so with a different attitude, Albarian said. In Armenia, the state and

church are one and people become members when they’re baptized at birth,

he said. Christmas is a national holiday in the truest sense of the word,

he said.

In contrast, Albarian believes the spiritual life is more than a state


“We would like to challenge everyone to make a conscious commitment to

the lordship of Christ in their lives,” Albarian said.

Therefore, where Christmas is one of the “largest celebrations in our

church,” according to Atmadjian, Albarian holds that “every Sunday is as

significant, not just the holidays.”

Armenian Christmas services in Glendale

WHO: St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church.

WHERE: 500 S. Central Ave.

WHAT: Christmas Eve service.

WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday.

WHAT: Christmas morning service.

WHEN: 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

INFO: 244-2402.

WHO: Armenian Church of the Nazarene.

WHAT: Christmas service.

WHEN: 10:45 a.m. Sunday.

WHERE: 411 E. Acacia Ave.

INFO: 244-9920.

WHO: Christian Outreach to Armenians Church.

WHAT: Christmas service.

WHEN: 1 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: Glendale Presbyterian Church, 125 S. Louise St.

INFO: 242-8873.