Christmas is one of the biggest holidays in the US and in Armenia as well. However, traditions differ in those two countries.
Christmas in Armenia is celebrated on the 6th of January, as in many Eastern European countries. A week before that many conservative or religious people in Armenia start fasting, trying to meet the Christmas Eve with a “pure stomach”. While New Year’s Day is a secular holiday, Christmas is always religious.
Traditions are very strong in Armenia, so many people start Christmas preparations long before the 6th of January. They clean their houses to face the Birth of Christ in a proper way and welcome a priest on Christmas Eve to bless their places. Traditionally, khetum or Christmas dinner is spent with family. Food plays a major role here (also because of fasting that finally ends). Christmas dishes include fish and rice, green peas and different desserts, fruits and nuts, and quite often yogurt and bean soup. It’s a rather substantial meal. In each house, you will find glazed ham and special Christmas pudding, recipes which have been around forever.
Many families decorate Christmas trees with doves and food. That is supposed to mean that the new year will be generous, peaceful and rich. Children often go and sing carols, trying to earn treats and coins.
In smaller villages, Christmas is even more rustic and traditional as families welcome everyone to join their celebration. That is why houses are full of food and treats for any strangers. It’s considered rude not to welcome a stranger into your house on Christmas Eve.