Why do Orthodox Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 6?

Here comes my last piece for #syrianchristmas   #khtoum  #ArmenianSyrian #Christamscarols

As an Armenian from the Middle East, we receive or get tagged with Martha’s Joke around the 6th and 7th of January ,

Armenian Christams

Curious souls among my network would google the reason, while others would ask us , Why do Orthodox Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 6?

Here you go mentioned from one of the most trustworthy newspapers, “Agos”.

My main target with blogging about the eve of 5th Jan is to actually explain what happens on that night in Aleppo city in the good old days, and the way I left my pinky rosy Aleppo in my mind .

The night before Christmas day is called “KHTOUM” Խթում meaning Ճրագալոյց

The reason why it’s called  as such is based on the fact that , the word itself means opening a fasting. Both Christmas and Easter traditions have a fasting ceremony before and the last day of fasting is the 5th and you open your fasting by sharing dinner with the family on Khtoum Eve .


On a personal level it used to be one of the best eves in our house , family and close family friends were invited for Christmas dinner, which normally starts around 21.00. In my family this night was a bit too sacred , we couldn’t go out or meet up with friends. We must always be at home. 

The house would be filled with the smell of my mum’s delicious food, which she will start cooking maybe the night before while the Christmas cozy decoration is already covering the whole house, and the ring of the front door will not stop ringing.

Carol singers touring Armenian houses 

What I really miss the most and I really would like to mention it in this blog, is how beautiful that evening turns out when suddenly the bell rings and a group of volunteers with diverse age groups from the church come up on the stairs reaching to your apartment, singing and  carrying candles. Most of the time it is accompanied with an instrument such as an accordion or violin. They mainly sing silent night in Armenian. It’s  quite funny to see the neighbors opening their doors to check them out too.

Normally you welcome them inside, as its January and cold outside and they continue singing. We offer them wine/liquor and some sweets. (find picture below)


I had to dig in a bit and call some family friends who are in Syria looking for historical facts. We don’t have 100% accurate facts to refer to but we do have a proximity about the traditions that have been carried out more than 125 years.

They used to sing Sharagan, while touring around the city.

Sharagan is an Armenian hymn and on chritsmas its always the famous “Khorourt mez”

Generation after generation this tradition has been carried out within the Armenian community , leaving from the church and visiting  Armenian families on Christmas eve singing.

In the last 30-40 years they started singing Silent night instead of khorourt mez, and what we are sure of is that the tradition of diverse aged groups of Christmas carols singers touring came to us as a tradition from the west and is not something we Armenians created.

It’s Christmas carols!

The last couple of years this tradition has been canceled due to war and the unstable security situation in Aleppo .  

One of the only pictures I have from all the years in our house

christmas carols Aleppo 2010

I will sum up two other traditions

The mass in our church during sourp dznout, which literary is a translation of the Holy birth of Jesus Christ, historically used to start in the middle of the night around 1 or 2 and ended up till early morning hours, 7 and 8.

Around the 80s and due to the situation in Syria , it changed into two masses. One in the afternoon of the khtoum night and the other one on Christmas day in the morning .

The afternoon mass always finished with khorourt mez sharagan and that’s when dznount, its christmas .

We do have one more tradition which has been carried out from the church also, during Christmas.

The priest visits the house of individual Armenian church members and pray with the family in their house. Historically priests didn’t have a set salary from the church , therefore this method was done to secure an extra income. In Beirut, Lebanon it’s less, but in Aleppo Syria it’s still carrying on .

Next morning we greet each other with the below sentence


Kristdoss dznav yev haydnestav – stezi mezi medz avedis

Քրիստոս Ծնաւ Եւ Յայտնեցաւ

Ձեզի Մեզի Մեծ Աւետիս


Food on the table

because my family comes originally from Anteb, we do have a set of meals that is recommended to have on the table , it is not a “must” to have them, it’s relative but it’s recommended.

  • Pilav – Arab Rice with Noodles: Ruz bil She’reya رز بالشعرية
  • Nivik – spinach beet and peas
  • Fish
  • special Armenian Dish – which consist of cooking pickles with Tomato sauce
  • Borak stuffed with rice and mince meat
  • Knafeh
  • Armenian Dried Fruits collection decorates the tables which consists of Black Plum Pastila / Candied Apricot/ Churchkhela / Dried Cherry / Dried Figs

food pictures this time is from different sources online . not family food table pictures . .


Food Servedarmenian xmas

I will leave you with one of the best cartoonist whom I enjoy her sense of humor illustrated .

You can check out more of her work by clicking 

2011-01-06-Armenian Christmas


happy to write about my Christmas and December in Syria , please don’t hesitate to comment and share your part of the tradition 

 Remember every community has habits and recipes but every house hold has its own Tradition as well, so welcome to mine


One thought on “Why do Orthodox Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 6?

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