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 .

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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

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New Year’s Eve and the 1st day of the year #syrianchristmas

Where I come from, this is how things used to be done!

Celebration of new year’s eve in my family and in most Armenian families who used to live in Aleppo City…

I would like to stop and reflect why I am choosing the wording, we used to…

War changed many family habits specially Christmas ones and that’s for both for the ones  who decided to start a life outside Syria or with people who decided to stay in .

Probably, the main reason for me to actually put those traditions into words is because I want and I wish to hang on some kind of memory and tradition that I belong to.

The ones which shaped me, specifically  when you’re abroad and you get all those questions for this kind of discussion, and your certainly phrase your reply with; where I come from this is how things used to be done!

 

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Tradition-customs

We first celebrate with the family then after midnight we are out with friends.

What happens is that new year’s eve starts with a big colorful dinner table, surrounded with family members and sometimes family friends are invited. The night is about talking, laughing, sharing food, most of the time reflecting on previous year lessons learned and looking forward for the new one sharing wishes and hopes, each one of us Have a saying around the table loudly .

When the clock ticks 12.00 midnight and you’re about to enter a new year, we turn off all the lights at the house and put candles on the table to help lighten the dining room. We pray loudly all together, then we start wishing every one a happy new year. We leave our seats and normally start with the oldest on the table exchanging hugs ,kisses and wishes.

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Later on, you may find most of the youth getting ready to go out. Your date or friends will pick you up and you end up partying with a massive crowd somewhere in the city of Aleppo, where a huge party is organized.

I called one of my family’s close friends and asked him a specific Diaspora Armenian new year tradition and he shared his point of view reminding me that youth leaving the family on new years eve after 12 is something that’s been in Aleppo in the last 25 -30 years.

I recall he had a special one which he had in his own family.

Mr. Karamanoukian  proudly still manages to do it every year even though the rest of his family members stopped it , who shared it warmly even when we used to invite him to spend new year’s with us he had to do his own tradition around our family table.

Before we start the dinner, he would have a red wine glass and put a gold coin in it , then the glass will tour around the table and every guest will drink a sip. (The Red wine refers to the  blood of Christ  and the  gold is used as its the world most respectful metal, mixing them together and sipping will be a prosperous  and successful year  ahead).

Food that must be on the table  and shared with the invites .

We don’t have a specific table serving on new year’s eve. Every family has its own tradition, but what is common is to have a Turkey stuffed with Rice and different nuts.

Grape vine stuffed with minced meat and rice we call it yabrak  or Sarma in Armenian

Kubbe must be on the table and a couple of salads or mezzes, sndwanat , suburak , taboule , yalanji.

Please find the pictures of the above list of dishes. Taken by my sister through the years

new year eve

First day of the Year 

New year’s eve is a tough drinking Eve, dancing and a long night of celebration that you end up mixing way too many drinks and top it up on champagne, welcoming the new year.

If you’re partying outside most probably you’re returning  home  early hours of the next day  drunk and you don’t want to remember what you did the night before. All you need is your pillow .

In our case as Armenian Syrians we wake up half sober with one eye almost closed with a hangover on a dining table either at our grandmother’s or in your own house lunch time.

Your mother or grandmother will prepare a typical first day dish of the year,

which is called kubbe labaniye  in Arabic كبة لبنية  

in Armenian madzounov kofta – Մատզոնով քոֆդա

and the English translation is meatballs yogurt soup.

The first day of the year people all over the world tag each other with new year pictures. We tag each other with labaniye dishes pictures .

Actually the dish is so sacred and the yogurt will balance your fucked up stomach and wakes you up slowly from the hang over .

The main reason we eat this specific dish on the first day of the year is because it’s a white dish, and we believe the year will be white /peaceful and the coming days will give us nothing but inner peace, “a myth that’s been carried for generations”but that’s how it is. You have to start your year with a WHITE DISH .

It’s been almost 4 years I am married with a Dane who really appreciates this dish when my mom makes it. The first day of 2016 I prepared  the meatballs way in advance and next morning I did my best to make it as tasty as my mom’s.

For a Dane who actually loves having a take away such as a Pizza for a hangover meal, his .  first reaction is that he really appreciate it by saying honey that is sooo sweet of you , your keeping the tradition , and it takes efforts, but its too heavy as a hangover dish and your mom’s is still better.

Maybe our stomach has been used to it for years, but to be honest Its one of the traditions I really like. I think it’s a  decent way of approaching a new year with positivity and HOPE, but the best part out of it for me is finishing two plates and going back to sleep “afternoon siesta”.

And this is how our year starts; with sleeping and a heavy yet delicious dish .

Happy new year 

 

 

PLEASE NOTE its not necessary to eat this dish, it’s important to have a white dish , but this one is the most common dish shared .

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Kubbe labaniye . Recipe.     As I am more of a  visual person . I found those videos very useful by clicking on part 1.2.3. . Enjoy the lady behind them . Mariette a talented lady with clear voice and useful videos .  An Armenian Soul .  with some notes on how my mom would do it is below each video .  

  1. part one    

My mom never uses onions in the meatballs. .

  1. part two

While the water is boiling for kufta , my mom adds Maggie cubes  instead of seasoning the water with salt . so that the meatballs will end up more tasty …..

  1. part three 

In my family we never use the corn , all we do is yogurt and one egg Wisk it , then slowly add water of the cooked meatballs as she is doing it in the video . ..

 

3rd of Dec. Christmas tree up

3rd of December is a special day back in Syria and for me it’s extra special as it’s my birthday!

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I was born on Saint Barbara’s day. My doctor was out partying before he delivered me, and suggested my name to be Barbara, but it ended up Angelique; taking after my grandmother’s name and i love it. Since then every year it’s our family tradition to have the Christmas  tree up on that day and the house is covered with xmas decoration all over. I don’t recall any year that passed without the smell of my mom’s tasty ( Slika  – in Arabic is سليقة    and in Armenian  ( hadig –  հատիկ )

the pure translation to English  based on recipes online is Burbara -Middle Eastern Wheat Berry Porridge, all over the house.

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Tradition / history

Many Syrian children look forward to Eid al-Barbara (Saint Barbara’s Day), celebrated in the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Turkey) by wearing costumes and eating traditional food on that evening .

On Saint Barbara’s Day, children in several Syrian towns go out in costumes and disguises and knock on their relatives and neighbors’ doors to wish them well and – more importantly – collect sweets.

Syrian hotels and restaurants also put on special fancy dress parties for the occasion.

Historically story tellers shared different version of St Barbara’s story but the most common one is the following:

Saint Barbara was persecuted in the 3rd century because she believed in Jesus. The general belief among Middle Eastern Christians is that Saint Barbara disguised herself in many different characters to escape the Romans who were persecuting her.  While fleeing from the Romans, Barbara supposedly also ran through a freshly planted wheat field, which grew instantly behind her to magically cover her path. This miracle is recreated symbolically today by planting wheat seeds (or chick peas, barley grains, beans, lentils) in little pots. The seeds germinate and grow quickly to around 6 inches in time for Christmas. Then the shoots are used to decorate the nativity scene usually placed below the Christmas tree.

Some correct the story, that she was running away from her father and beside the miracle of the wheat fields , you may find many Religious icons that had been drawn of her holding Wheat spike. Therefore we eat wheat on that day.

On the other hand, Planting seeds on that day by the kids is a Lebanese custom, which we never had in Syria.

I would like to quote a friend of mine ,  سليقة – slika  is a very easy desert to make but it takes time , you need to boil the wheat for many long hours therefore it’s called slika …

Please note . the verb out of the word  Slika means boiling in Arabic .

You can find some family pictures of a Dear friend of mine from this year 2017 , she moved to Qatar but kept the tradition within the school and home with her kids .

And throw back to my old pictures below you can find me partying in the old days of Aleppo i.e. 2009. One of the best parties that annually used to be organized on Barbara Night By the entrepreneur Magdy Sh.

 

How to make Barbara – slika سليقة – Sniye- Hadig հատիկ

You may find the two different recpies by clicking below.

https://www.askchefdennis.com/burbara-middle-eastern-wheat-berry-porridge-with-dish-away/

https://feastinthemiddleeast.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/burbarrah-my-favorite-porridge-on-earth/

My mom’s Way .

  1. the night before you place wheat with water and keep them overnight In the water .
  2. next morning Change the water , and start heating/and the coking process begin .
  3. When it starts boiling you get some white crème on the top . you take them out with a spoon while its boiling .

you leave the pot a little open . and on very law heat . you should make sure you cooked it well ( you can add hot water each time you feel it’s getting  less . …..until the wheat is well cooked .  be patient this is a long process .

  1. As it’s a dish that can stay for a week in the fridge . my mom’s secret is the following
  2. Take portions that you need to serve and mix it with sugar , cinnamon , grounded anise seeds and fennel grounded . ( she doesn’t buy grounded anise and fennel ready from the market  . she  buys  the seeds grill  them a little in the pan ….. then ground them and use it as spice for the mixture )
  3. Placing it in bowls for serving warm . after flavoring ,decorate each serving with toppings . chopped Almonds, pistachio , nuts and golden raisin … based on your wish or the guests wish .

 

This Sweet porridge is not dedicated specially for this day only . the same porridge will be served when a new born baby gets his first teeth . the family will gather for an afternoon sweets and this porridge will be served and shared  happily .

 

#syrianchristmas

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A friend of mine shared her wish to start a hashtag #syrianchristmas  gathering food recipes and sharing traditions/customs  which we used to follow as Syrians back home.

Today we have spread all over the world and maybe a hashtag can gather some nice colorful memories online for curious souls  to know more about Syria and the Syrian ways of life.
I am excited to write about my part, as Christmas is one of my favorite seasons. I love December. I was born in December and the spirit of Joy spices my soul every year.

Christmas is a glorious season of the year. I love to share the simple joys of it and one of them is giving gifts. Lights and kindness are floating all over.

Suddenly everyone remembers to be kind, which is remarkable……
Finding the real joy of Christmas comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done but in the act of keeping traditions as well.
When you’re abroad and you get those kind of questions;
• How about your Christmas traditions back in your own country?
• It’s a Christian tradition why do you celebrate it , in the M.east? It’s a Muslim country.
• Why is your Christmas “as an Armenians” on the 6th and not 24th of December like the rest of the world?
•How do you celebrate? What do you eat?

In my blog I will try my best to be 100% true and based on facts , asking older generation to confirm my points and referring to my family and friends of family who kept the traditions for years ,  therefore I will not stereotype  Christians in Syria I will write about the  part  I come from, as an Armenian from Syria .
Please feel free to use your own versions and please share as much memories and recipes you know , remember and you still apply in your new homes . ……………….

In Syria you have a majority of Sunni Muslims with little group partitions ( Kurds, Druzes , Yazidis , ,Turkman , Ismailli , Alawi , Sunni Circassiansthen )
On the other hand, you may find  Christian minority groups Arabic-speaking Christians (Greek-Orthodox, Greek-Catholics, Maronites and a part of Syrian Catholics)
Assyrians (Catholics) and Syriacs (Orthodox) , Armenians ( Catholics and Orthodox) and Jews.

Syrian civil society is a remarkable patchwork. Therefore it’s important to understand and dig into the details in order to be able to comprehend the #SyrianChristmas
But then again I ask myself is Christmas more religious based ceremony or Christmas is a cultural event , but where do I come from church is very involved in the traditions . therefore I would call it  religion based Event .

I decided to put up a blog explaining the journey starting from 3rd of December. …….Read more
Then I will take you to a trip on 31st of December and 1st of January. ….. …….Read more  And the last article will be about 5th January Armenian christmas……… ….. …….Read more  
I will leave 24th Christmas eve for other friends who are able to express it in their own versions and community habits..  .
Recipes of traditional Dishes are from various sources online which will be mentioned and credited with modification from my Mom. based on how she does it. Every talent has its own secret.
Remember every community has habits and recipes but every house hold has its own Tradition as well, so welcome to mine

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Checkmate –

checkmate 1checkmate 2checkmate 3checkmate 4checkmate 5checkmate 6checkmate 7checkmate 8checkmate 9checkmate 10checkmate 11

Sneak peek
All I can share is called (checkmate)
Photo shooting of the  chairs collection  –  Location : Aleppo Al-Shibani building 2011
Background pictures is the journey since then  Location : Syria-Lebanon- Denmark -Cuba – Czech – Armenia – Serbia

 

Keep being skeptical

Today, Intellectuals around the world are busy attending conferences /lectures/ creating awareness campaign /researchers are digging into the truth. With a highlighted title Fake news No More . and fact checking is needed .

In parallel suddenly we are all aware that we should not keep calm. and it’s so genuine and beautiful what is happening, truth is popping out like popcorn in too many diverse aspects and industries around the globe ………………..…

I am neither a journalist nor an expert, but a skeptical resident who has an eye and would love to share and reflect ……

considering the fact that we are digesting information served , customized and dedicated to us by bunch of people sitting somewhere in silicon , monitoring -creating – controlling and so on ….

And Not dismissing the fact that likes, tweets and downloads can be bought so that you can improve your business / or your voice appears to be heard way too many times and be considered a reliable source .

I would like to share this little video which is not academic at all and will serve none of those Brainy likeminded who are digging into what is Real and how should be delivered and directed …….. …..

with his pure humor and nothing but creativity, illustrates clearly (citizens digesting what is served ….. ….

Ktir Salbeh Show – 2015 Episode 1 – 30 جحش

Next time you read or hear anything .. remember the jingle. ….

Donkey Number 32- 33- 34

And for my English speaking friends here is a Brief Translation.

He is selling newspapers….. and it is a common habit down in M.East you scream out loud when you want to sell in the street .

30 donkeys are victims ….   ….. While walking in the street

A guy stops him who is curious and needs to know what happened , ( who are those donkeys , what happened to them , when and where

the price is too high to get the info , but he pays and buys the crap, the salesman continue his walk while screaming 31 donkeys are victims …….

Please note donkey is a common way of referring to an idiot , when you try to express using humor .

All right reserved – Ktir Salbeh Show – 2015 Episode 1 – 30 جحش LBCI Lebanon

Unpairing my fear

A while ago I took part in an art talk which was followed by an interesting documentary film about “Hope” and “Fear”. In it I had to share my biggest fear and my biggest hope on a piece of paper. When I held the pen, it didn’t take me long to write down my fear; “THE FEAR OF NOT ACCOMPLISHING THE UNSTOPPABLE ART PROJECTS IN MY HEAD”. I usually draw them in my mind at night, instead of creating them and putting them into contexts.

During the same week by chance, my husband and I had to move to a new flat. You see, I live with my husband in a 80m2 flat, and it’s just the two of us “so far”.

What happened was while moving and organizing ourselves in the new flat and I discovered the huge amount of “unpaired socks” we both had gathered throughout the past 3 years . That was strange!

For the past three years , we both do a lot of washing and I don’t recall myself returning home from a yoga class wearing one pair or him from handball. Surprisingly when I wash and hang out the clothes to dry, I always end up with unpaired socks and I convince myself they might be somewhere in the bucket which will come out with the next round.

It just made lots of sense to me because it’s exactly like all the Art projects and thoughts that run in my head and that have never been shaped into context. Therefore, I promised myself to pair them even if they were incomplete. Once they find the road they will find a way for an exposure and can be re-shaped anytime.

So today this is how it looks like! Enjoy the collection of artwork below.

Any art project has the following.

The vision to create.

The drive to create it,

and then you sometimes stop, because you lack funding, and you want to be appreciated,

while someone else is making the effort to print your work, and market it instead of you .

Especially If you’re a beginner and not sponsored by any gallery or institution you end up saying to yourself, you won’t get motivated if you’re rarely appreciated.

But the reality is the opposite! The more you create the better you feel, and in creating Art perfectionism doesn’t exist the moment you drop from the chain of thoughts, but that’s when you can be more easily creative. One of the best dialogues I had with an artist was when he once shared with me the following: “You’re an artist. An artist creates every day. An artist is like a fisherman. Does the fisherman stop fishing? Fishing can be a hobby but to be a fisherman you need to go out there every day.”

So in conclusion I leave you with some of the latest One Sock Creation.

Ps. I just discovered I am not alone on this planet thinking there is a monster in my washing machine or there is a monster which resides in my laundry room but somehow some scientists even have come up with a Formula

These included the volume of laundry, number of people in a household and number of socks in a load.

(L (p x f) + C (t x s) ) – (P x A)