Old City rings in Julian calendar New Year

The holidays are far from over in Jerusalem, as Armenian quarter prepares to celebrate the last day of the year.

January 13, 2011 16:13
2 minute read.
Christmas Bethlehem

Christmas Bethlehem. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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For many Christians in the Holy Land and around the world, the holiday season is not yet over as the New Year is rung in tonight for adherents of the Julian calendar.

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On Jan. 13, Armenians will ring in the New Year with celebrations this evening and a mass tomorrow morning in Jerusalem’s Old City. The Armenians in Jerusalem will also celebrate Christmas Eve on Jan. 18, the only community in the world to abide by the late Christmas date, 13 days after the Gregorian calendar of the traditional Orthodox Christmas date of Jan. 6.

That makes Jerusalem the Christmas capital of the world. Despite a small indigenous Christian community living in the Holy Land, the winter holiday is celebrated three times in Jerusalem - Dec. 25 (catholics and Protestants), Jan. 6 (Orthodox) and Jan. 19 (Armenian Orthodox only in Jerusalem) - than in any other place. But tonight all Orthodox Christians observe New Year’s Eve.

“This is the new year for all  the oriental orthodox who observe the Julian calendar,” Armenian Archbishop Aris Shirvanian told Travelujah, the only Christian social network focused on learning about and traveling to the Holy Land. “This is Dec. 31 on the Julian calendar.” Christians celebrate with a feast on New Year’s Eve and mass on New Year’s morning.

“At midnight there is a very short ceremony in the Armenian convent (St. James) and the church bells will ring and a congratulatory message will be delivered marking the New Year,” Shirvanian said.

Just as Jan. 13 corresponds to Dec. 31, the Armenians use the same calendar to celebrate Christmas: Jan. 6 on the Julian calendar corresponds to Jan. 19 on the Gregorian calendar.

“On Jan. 18 we go to Bethlehem for an official procession,” Shirvanian explained. “We have a series of services until the morning of the 19th. We have a midnight service in the grotto (at the Church of the Nativity) then the Divine Liturgy followed by a blessing of water symbolic of the baptism of our Lord.”

Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity in 301 AD. Armenians have claimed an enduring presence in Jerusalem dating back to 95 BC and a community on Mount Zion since the fourth century. To this day, there is an Armenian Quarter in the Old City with fewer than 2,000 residents.

Travelujah.com is a Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.

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