By Susan Abram, Staff Writer

Los Angeles Daily News, CA
Jan 7 2008

In many homes, the Christmas decorations - indeed even the trees -
have long been packed or discarded.

But for a large community in Southern California, the phrase "Merry
Christmas" was exchanged with enthusiasm Sunday after a morning of
prayers, before a day of feasts, and during family and community
gatherings as part of Armenian Christmas.

"I know people say to us, why do you have Christmas this week,"
said 14-year-old Melanie Rose Tatiossian, of Northridge, who stood
outside and on the steps of St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church in
Van Nuys with other youths, greeting parishioners who walked inside.

"For us, it's a fun and happy day," she said. "It's another day to
celebrate and meet new friends."

While Armenian-American families do celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25,
the Armenian church recognizes Jan. 6 as the day to commemorate the
birth and baptism of Jesus Christ. Members of the Armenian Church
have chosen to remain faithful to the traditions and celebrate the
event on the date still recognized by most orthodox churches.

Indeed, Jan. 6, known as the 12th day of Christmas, also is recognized
in other cultures, either as Three Kings Day or the feast of the
Epiphany. Many Latino Catholics, for example, commemorate Jan.

6, when the three kings followed the star of Bethlehem to take gifts
to baby Jesus.

Children open gifts, traditionally believed to have been left by the
Three Kings.

For Armenians, the tradition includes gathering with families and
enjoying a traditional Christmas Eve meal of western Armenian foods
including fish.

And so in churches in Glendale and the San Fernando Valley and
beyond on Sunday, ancient liturgies were recited, water was blessed
to commemorate Jesus Christ's baptism, and pleasantries were exchanged.

"Although we celebrate with everyone on Dec. 25, continuing the
celebration makes it special for us, more important for everyone here,"
said Peter Corluyan, youth director at St. Peter's.

Inside the church, the Rev. Shnork Demirjian led the liturgy for
nearly 1,000 parishioners.

The Van Nuys church also is celebrating its 50th anniversary, which
made Sunday an extra special time, Corluyan said, with activities
planned throughout the year.

"The church was first started when young couples wanted to create
a Sunday school," said Chris Yaldezian, one of the founding church
members. "Over the years, we have grown. And it's those (Armenians)
who have come from all over the world who have kept us going."