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Armenian Christmas Celebration, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Armenian Christmas Celebration

6 January 2013, Armenian Church, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Also see my blog post on Armenians of Calcutta (Kolkata)

Armenian Christmas Celebration, Armenian Church, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Armenian Christmas Celebration, Armenian Church, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Yes you have read it right “Christmas on 6 January !!!!!” It is the Armenian Christmas. The Armenian Orthodox Church  celebrates the birth of Christ on January 6 (also known as Old Christmas).

Choir, Armenian Christmas, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Choir, Armenian Christmas, Calcutta (Kolkata)

According to Rev. Father Khoren Hovhannisyan, pastor (priest) of Armenians in India “When we wish someone Merry Christmas in Armenian, we are actually saying that Christ is born and revealed, and blessed is Christ’s revelation.”

According to historic records Christians worldwide celebrated Christ’s birth on January 6, till the fourth century. Rome changed the birth date to December 25 to override a pagan festival dedicated to the birth of the sun. The Armenian Church just kept the original date. Also Armenia happens to be the first country to adopt Christianity as the state religion.

Armenian Christmas, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Armenian Christmas, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Although only 150 Armenians live in the city but the Armenians have a long history dating far beyond the days of Job Charnock, the controversial founder of the city of Calcutta. Unlike the Portuguese their relation with the English has always been friendly. The Armenian Church of Calcutta (Kolkata), oficaillay known as the Holy Church of Nazareth was built in 1707 but the present structure dates back to 1724 thus making it the oldest church in Calcutta (Kolkata). Over the years the Armenian Church of Calcutta (Kolkata) has undergone several modification and extension, including the inclusion of the clock tower.

Armenian Christmas, Armenian Church, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Armenian Christmas, Calcutta (Kolkata)

The Christmas Mass, officially known as the Divine Liturgy started at about 9:30 am conducted by Rev. Fr. Khoren Hovhannisyan, he was assisted by Rev. Fr. Geghart Ghabaghyan along with a host of boys from the Calcutta Armenian School and College. The language was Armenian and although I didn’t understand a word of what they said but it was a mesmarising experience hearing their voice thunder through the corridors of the Armenian Church.

The grand alter was decorated beautifully with flowers and candles. The Christmas choir consisting of boys and girls from the Armenian College sang from the balcony.

The audience hall is packed with about 150 Armenians, many of them of them coming form far of lands like the USA and Australia. A large section of Calcutta (Kolkata) Armenians have long migrated to far of countries but many make it a point to return on the Christmas day to the church where they were baptized.

Cross, Armenian Christmas, Calcutta

Cross, Armenian Christmas, Calcutta

Mr Malcolm Catchatorian, the lead singer of the Armenian Xmas choir, have travelled all the way from California, USA to attend the Christmas in the church, where he himself was baptised more than 60 years ago.

To prepare themselves for the great festival, Armenians fast for a week to cleanse themselves to be worthy of a great miracle and prepare for the celebrations of the great festival. The Armenian Christmas is quiet different from the Protestant and Catholic Christmas Mass. The highlight of the Armenian Christmas is the ceremony of  “Blessing of Water” it commemorate Christ’s Baptism in River Jordan. The Cross will be immersed in water to symbolize the baptism of Christ.

Armenian Christmas Celebration, Armenian Church, Calcutta (Kolkata)

Armenian Christmas Celebration, Armenian Church, Calcutta (Kolkata)

The mass ends with the drinking of the “Blessed Water” along with wafers and kissing of the cross, which represent “Baptised Christ.”

Special Thanks:

  • A special thanks to the entire Armenian Community of Calcutta (Kolkata) for their immense cooperation and for allowing me to photograph the entire event.


This blog entry on Armenian Christmas, Calcutta (Kolkata) has been twitted by Amitav Ghosh.

  1. Tanusree Dey
    January 11, 2013 at 7:47 PM
  2. Subir Kumar Sinha
    January 6, 2016 at 10:22 PM

    During my long stay (1993) on Maltese soil, I came to know from several Maltese people that Malta happens to be first nation in the World to declare Christianity as their state religion, many centuries prior to Armenia. One can see St. Paul’s Shipwreck Church. St. Paul, who was one of Christ’s direct disciples. Due to Arab invasion, for the time being the Christianity got derailed a bit but currently it is very much back on the track. A small island nation and this island is having numerable Churches and Museums, all are very well preserved.

  1. December 22, 2017 at 8:49 AM
  2. January 8, 2019 at 8:56 PM

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