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)
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
The mass ends with the drinking of the “Blessed Water” along with wafers and kissing of the cross, which represent “Baptised Christ.”
- A special thanks to the entire Armenian Community of Calcutta (Kolkata) for their immense cooperation and for allowing me to photograph the entire event.
- It’s Xmas time for Armenians The Times of India, 3 Jan., 2012
- It’s Christmas day for a band of Armenians The Times of India, 6 Jan., 2011
This blog entry on Armenian Christmas, Calcutta (Kolkata) has been twitted by Amitav Ghosh.