Journal Times Online, WISCONSIN
Dec 4 2004

Christmas Armenian style at the museum
By Phyllis Sides

RACINE - The Racine Heritage Museum has a Christmas gift for the
community in its Armenian-American Traditions program Sunday

Not everyone celebrates Christmas and New Year's Day the same way,
archivist Dick Ammann said. The program is an opportunity to discover
some of the unique and changing holiday traditions among Racine's
Armenian-American residents.

Visitors can discover the stories of the Feast of Saint Stephen and
the New Year's Father as well as stories of special traditional foods,
music and other practices, and learn how these practices have changed
over time, adapting and adopting some American holiday customs.

Charles Hardy, the archdeacon at St. Mesrob Armenian Apostolic Church,
is one of the presenters. Hardy will speak about the religious
traditions of the season.

"At one time the whole Christian world celebrated Christmas on the
same day, Jan. 6," Hardy said. "But the Western Church changed to
Dec. 25 to draw attention away from paganism. They changed it because
many of the Roman Christians still celebrated a feast called the
Saturnalia around that date," Hardy said.

The Saturnalia was a feast that focused on the light and energy of the
sun. The move was an attempt to sanctify the date and teach that
Christ was the only source of but was the light of God.

However, in Armenia the conflict didn't exist and Christmas continued
to be celebrated on Jan. 6, Hardy said, although today Armenians in
the west exchange gifts on Dec. 25, too.

Armenians also celebrate Jesus' baptism on Jan. 6, Hardy said. In the
Armenian church, the Epiphany commemorates Jesus' baptism.

The program will be divided into four parts. Dr. Levon Saryan will
speak about Armenian music and cultural traditions. Mary Buchaklian
will talk about food and Julie Der Garabedian will talk about Armenian
New Year customs and traditions.

Armenians celebrate New Year's Day on Jan. 1, and traditionally it's
the day Santa Claus would come for the children, Der Garabedian said,
giving out small gifts and little bags of fruit and nuts.

This free program is in conjunction with the Museum's exhibit focusing
on State Street as a gateway neighborhood and the Armenian-Americans
who called the neighborhood home. It is part of the Heritage Museum's
ongoing Conversations Series.