The Armenian Christian community in Israel celebrated Christmas on Friday night and Saturday with the traditional procession from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, headed by Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem Archbishop Nourhan Manougian.
The Armenian Christian community in the Holy Land is the only community to celebrate Christmas on January 18 and 19 due to historical differences with other Orthodox denominations, which celebrate on January 6 and 7.
On Friday, Manougian led the vehicular procession from the Armenian Patriarchate in the Old City of Jerusalem to the Mar Elias Monastery in the south of the city, followed by some 450 pilgrims, including a group from Turkey, as well as priests, seminarians and other officials.
There they were greeted by the deputy mayor of Bethlehem, the mayors of nearby Beit Jala and Beit Sahur, mukhtars of Bethlehem and notables of the Armenian community, and then continued on to Bethlehem.
After the Solemn Entry ceremony of the archbishop and the procession into Bethlehem, where they were greeted by the mayor of Bethlehem and a scout troop, they made there way to Manger Square, and from there to the Armenian convent in the city where Manougian received officials from the Armenian church in Bethlehem.
The Christmas service took place at night in the Church of the Nativity and at midnight, the patriarch went to the Grotto of the Nativity to read the gospel and gave his Christmas sermon.
On Sunday, the Armenian Patriarchate will celebrate Epiphany, which for Eastern Christians celebrates the baptism of Jesus, at the Qasr el-Yahud site on the River Jordan in the West Bank.
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