Raffi Kendirjian clearly remembers celebrating Christmas Eve as a boy growing up in Beruit — the family gathered at the home of an elderly relative, broke fast and waited for the parish priest and council members to make the rounds through the neighborhood.
"We waited for the groups to come over, knock on the door, and once the door is open they start singing the hymn announcing the birth of Christ," said Kendirjian, a La Crescenta resident and volunteer with the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America.
The centuries-old traditions continued Wednesday night and into today as thousands of Armenian Christians crowded local churches and private homes to mark Christmas, celebrated by the community on Jan. 6.
"It is a joyous day," said Mashdots Jobanian, diocesan director of Christian education.
At Glendale Adventist Medical Center on Wednesday, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, who leads the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America, blessed holy water and gata, an Armenian sweet bread traditionally prepared at Christmas. Dozens of hospital staff members and patients gathered for the occasion.