Armenians traditionally celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6, which they believe is the day Jesus was born, although traditional prayers begin for many followers on the night before Christmas, said the Rev. Khajag Shahbazyan, of Burbank’s Western Diocese of the Armenian Church, who participated in some visits Monday.
The holiday festivities typically involve offering prayers, thanks and visiting family and friends, Shahbazyan said.
Many patients of all backgrounds often feel distant from normal community activities during hospital stays, so Glendale Memorial employees organize activities like the Armenian Christmas visits to help boost spirits, Johnson said.
“When they find ways to become included in other things, and are folded back in, it’s really helpful,” he said, explaining that the day of celebration was just one of the activities that Glendale Memorial has for its patients.
“One of my tasks is tapping into whatever religion or faith the patient may have and celebrating their tradition, Johnson said.
About 40% of the hospital’s patients are Armenian and enjoy the room-to-room celebrations, which the hospital has arranged for the last eight years, said Ramella Markarian, the hospital’s physician relations coordinator and the woman in charge of this year’s holiday visits.
“It’s very important for them to remember and celebrate these holidays,” Markarian said.
Patients said the visits made them feel more comfortable and happy on a day they associated with family activities and prayer.
Artur Lisechko, a Burbank resident who was being treated for pneumonia, was overjoyed to see a pair of Armenian religious figures join two hospital employees for a visit at his bedside.
Clasping a loaf of gata bread to his chest, he asked Shahbazyan to pray for him and explained that he has had frequent health problems since a car accident five years ago left half of his body paralyzed.
“I was excited because the Armenians don’t forget me,” Lisechko said of the visit.
“There’s a lot of people who forget me.”