The Armenian Apostolic Church is the only national church in the world that celebrates Christmas on January 6. In Armenian temples, the celebration of Christmas begins on January 5, accompanied by a Christmas liturgy. The sanctuary lamps lit during the feast symbolize the Star of Bethlehem that guided the biblical Magi to the home of Jesus.
After the Christmas liturgy, water sanctification that represents the baptism of Jesus in Jordan River is carried out. The water is consecrated with the Bible, the Holy Cross, and chrism. Traditionally, after the liturgy, the believers carry small amounts of the holy water to their homes to safeguard it as a great shrine. Holy water is believed to be a cure and to possess special beneficial features.
According to the tradition of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the week preceding Christmas is a period of fasting, which begins in the evening of December 29 and ends in the evening of January 5.
In regard to the feast menu, Armenians traditionally cook several dishes, including sweet pilaf, raisins, dishes with greens and fish, as well as gata (Armenian pastry). Red wine is also traditionally present.
Each of these dishes has its symbolism. Rice represents the nation and raisins represent the elects of God who preached Christianity. Fish has long been a symbol and a distinguishing feature of Christianity. Lastly, red wine represents the blood of Jesus, while a traditional gata can be cut into 12 slices that symbolize the 12 months of the year.
The next day of Christmas is the day of the remembrance of the late (Merelots). The meaning of Merelots is to allow the late to “participate” in the feast. Merelots takes place on the next day (Monday) of the major religious holidays of the Armenian Church.