Burbank Leader , CA
LATimes.com
Jan 8 2005

'An opportunity to remember the past'

By Rima Shah, The Leader


This year's Armenian Christmas bore special poignancy, one of the
most important leaders in the Armenian Church said Thursday in a
holiday ceremony.

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, primate of the Armenian Church of North
Western Diocese, presided over the ceremony at the Western Diocese
Headquarters in Burbank.

The primate is the most important position in the Western Diocese and
the second most important position in the world, said Matthew Ash,
youth director of the Western Diocese.

The ceremony, besides celebrating the birth of Christ, also
commemorated the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

The genocide is normally observed on April 24, but reflecting on it
on Christmas Day has a special meaning, Ash said.

"There is going to be an opportunity to remember the past," Ash said.
"It is also an opportunity to celebrate life and to celebrate the
fact that there are strong thriving communities throughout the world
who have survived the effects of the genocide."

The ceremony included blessing the Armenian stone crosses, which are
an important part of the Armenian church and are blessed at special
events.

Youth from about 30 parishes of the Western Diocese who attended the
ceremony will each carry a stone cross back to their respective
parishes.

Derderian plans to visit the diocese's parishes until April 24 to
consecrate and install the stones.

The future was also celebrated at Glendale Memorial Hospital when a
baby was born at 5:10 a.m. Thursday.

"It's like a gift for me," said Anna Sarukhanyan, the girl's mother,
who sat at the hospital bed holding the newborn. She will name her
daughter Mary or Elizabeth.

Glendale Memorial Hospital workers distributed Armenian sweet bread
called, "gatta," to the patients in the hospital to celebrate
Armenian Christmas.

"This is the fifth year I am doing this," said Vazrik Abtekian, who
works at physician services in the hospital. "It's kind of tradition.
The sweet bread signifies the whole celebration of happiness."