The liturgical year of the Armenian Liturgy is characterised by the mobility of its feasts, by the emphasis on Sunday, and by the celebration of Christmas on January 6. The liturgical year revolves around the two principal Christian feasts of the Nativity and Theophany as well as the Resurrection of Our Lord.
The Armenian calendar preserves the shape of the liturgical year as presented in the fifth-century lectionary of Jerusalem. After the Bible, this document was among the first writings to be translated into Armenian from Greek by St. Mesrob Mashtots and his school, in 439AD, shortly after the invention of the Armenian alphabet.
The Armenians celebrate Christ’s nativity and his baptism together on January 6. This is the original date of Christmas in the East, before it was transferred to December 25. The Presentation of the Lord to the Temple is celebrated forty days later, on February 14, and the Annunciation to Mary is nine months before Christmas, on April 7. The Armenian calendar has only three other fixed feasts, all pertaining to the Mother of God: her birth (September 8), her Presentation to the Temple (November 21) and her Conception to Joachim and Anna (December 9).
All other feasts and saints’ commemorations are moveable and depend upon the day of the week. Major feast days must be celebrated on Sunday, the dies dominica (day of the Lord). The Assumption of the Mother of God and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross are celebrated on the Sundays falling closest to August 15 and September 14 respectively.
Wednesdays and Fridays are days of abstinence, and have a penitential theme (unless one of the six fixed feasts above falls on them). Saints’ commemorations are celebrated exclusively on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, the latter reserved for the most important saints. Accordingly, saints’ days are not attached to a particular date, but are defined in relation to the closest major feast and a day of the week. For example, the feast of St. Constantine the Emperor and his mother, Helena, is always celebrated on Tuesday of the fourth week after Pentecost, the precise date changing from year to year. Every feast day of the liturgical year, except for the six fixed feasts is determined in this way, making the Armenian liturgical year highly variable from year to year.
The Armenians calculate Easter according to the Nicene definition. The Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1923 for civil and liturgical use, making the Armenian Church one of the few Eastern churches to celebrate Easter on the same date as the Catholic and Protestant world. Only the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem follows the Julian calendar because of the status quo of the Holy Places.
Lent begins on the seventh Monday before Easter. It is preceded the Fast of the Catechumens beginning on the third Monday before Lent.
Advent (Hisnag) begins on the day after the Sunday nearest November 18. It lasts between six and seven weeks, depending each year on the duration of the period between Assumption (Sunday closest to August 15) and Theophany (January 6).
The Armenians celebrate four feasts of the Cross: Exaltation (Sunday nearest September 14); Apparition (commemorates the appearance of the cross in the sky over Jerusalem on May 7, 351; celebrated on the Sunday closest to May 7); Discovery of the Cross (seventh Sunday after Exaltation); and the Apparition of the Cross on Mount Varak, commemorating the miraculous 7th-century discovery of a fragment of Christ’s cross in Armenia (third Sunday after Exaltation).
Bishop Daniel Findikyan