Torossian came to the hospital to have his heart checked, and was about to leave when the holiday festivities caught his attention.
After the loaves of gata bread were blessed in the lobby, about a dozen hospital employees distributed them to patients throughout the hospital, as well as to other hospital employees. The hospital has carried out this Armenian Christmas activity for the last 10 years, said Markarian, who works in business development at the hospital.
“We just bring them holiday cheer, basically,” Markarian said.
About 40% of the hospital’s patients are Armenian, and many of its doctors and other employees are Armenian as well, so the hospital likes to mark Armenian Christmas, Markarian said.
Armenians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6 because that was the day the birth of Christ was observed in early Armenian history, according to the Armenian Church of America’s eastern diocese. In contrast, the Roman Catholic Church celebrated Christmas on Dec. 25 to coincide with pagan rituals.
The hospital also celebrates significant days for other cultures, like Cinco de Mayo, Markarian said.
“We respect all cultures. Armenians are a large number of our population,” Markarian said.
One of the hospital employees who helped make the bread deliveries was Marianna Kmbikyan, who works in the admitting department. Bringing the holiday treats to patients was a welcome change from her regular duties, Kmbikyan said, and gave her a chance to interact with the hospital’s patients in a different way.
“It’s a different kind of attention,” Kmbikyan said. “We actually treat them as human beings at the holidays and not just patients.”
Marking Armenian Christmas is an important responsibility because patients may wish to celebrate their religion but be unable to attend church, Garibjanyan said.
Spending Armenian Christmas in the hospital wasn’t ideal, said Ojenick Nahapetian, a patient, but receiving the bread and the visitors was a nice surprise.
“I wasn’t expecting it, so it’s very nice,” Nahapetian said.
Nahapetian couldn’t eat the bread immediately because she is awaiting surgery, but she said she looked forward to trying it later.
“I’ll have to taste a little bit,” she said.
Patient Ashot Yanashyan was on a liquid diet, but he said the bread certainly wouldn’t go to waste.
“I’m sure my family will enjoy this,” he said.