It’s not Christmas in Armenia… yet

Church 1The Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator was built in 1835 and is the oldest church in Singapore.

What’s a Christmas without snow? Every Christmas in Singapore. However, that doesn’t make our Christmas any less special. Don’t believe us? Ask the people of the Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator in Singapore.

An Armenian church?

Church 2Located on Hill Street, the Armenian Church was designed by Irish architect, George D. Coleman. Although he planned the center of our town, roads and many buildings, this church is considered one of his masterpieces.

The church is also the usual place for gatherings of the Armenian community. They will sometimes hold barbecues and have regular gatherings as well, for at least once a month.

Special occasions, such as Christmas, will be held here too.

‘Tis the season

The difference between an Armenian Christmas and the ones we normally have in Singapore is firstly, the date it’s held on. Armenians celebrate Christmas on 6th January. This is because Armenians are the first Christians in the world and historically, all Christian churches celebrated Christ’s birth on this date. However, the date was changed to 25th December to override a pagan feast dedicated to the birth of the Sun. Since Armenia never had such pagan practices, they continue to celebrate Christmas on 6th January.

In Singapore’s Armenian Church, the church-going community celebrates with holy mass twice a year and the singing of hymns. They also enjoy a dinner, drinks and having a good conversation with great company.

Church 3A plate of basturma
Source: Blackstone Travel

Food-wise, they’ll have butter rice with dried fruits and cinnamon, dolma (stuffed meat and couscous in grape leaves), basturma (homemade dried and smoked ham), fish (the first symbol of Christianity), homemade pastries and wine.

Before this great feast, many Armenians will fast for 40 days to clear the mind, the body and the soul. The Armenian fasting is such that they will have a limited diet of vegan foods such as nuts and honey, and abstain from animal products like meat, poultry, eggs and milk.

It’s not the same, but…

Does the Armenian Christmas in Singapore feel like the one in Armenia? Absolutely not!

For one thing, Armenia’s festive period is from 31st December to 6th January, while Singapore’s is from 25th December to 1st January. You might think the dates don’t matter, but it’s just not the same. Furthermore, there’s no snow in Singapore – we celebrate Christmas in sun and rain.

The Armenians in Singapore are also missing the opportunity to celebrate this holiday with their family and friends back in Armenia. Loved ones do visit them, but usually not at this time of the year – plane tickets are much too expensive! A season as jolly as this just isn’t the same without those you love near you.

But the Armenians won’t let these differences get them down. They put on some music, enjoy themselves with the lovely community here in Singapore, and sometimes even dance the night away.

Church 4A group photo of the Armenian community

Fellow Singaporeans do join in on the Armenian Christmas too. We hear there is a local who knows a bit of the Armenian holy mass and occasionally joins in on singing hymns. Friends of the Armenians and those fond of Armenia also come down for Christmas to join in on the holiday cheer.

The church-goers of the Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator Singapore may not be in their home country, but they are still joyously celebrating the holiday. As long a day is spent with loved ones, it is a day well-spent. Happy Holidays everyone!

How do you celebrate Christmas? Let us know in the comments!