By Siranush Ghazanchyan
(ArmRadio) – Turkey’s Oriental Orthodox Christians, the country’s largest Christian denomination, held mass on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning to celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus, which they observe on Jan. 6, Today’s Zaman reports.
On Tuesday evening, Christmas Eve mass was held at several Oriental Orthodox churches throughout the city. The pews of the Surp Vartanants Armenian Church were filled during the service, which was conducted in Armenian. Those present sang hymns such as Der Voghormia (Lord of Mercy). The congregation then filed out of the church holding candles and sang and prayed together in the front yard of the church. The candles are held to symbolize the light that Jesus brought the world with his birth. Afterwards, bread and salt were distributed to symbolize the abundance of food for the next year.
The Surp Vartanants Armenian Church is located in the Feriköy neighborhood of İstanbul’s Şişli district, where many members of the local Armenian community reside. Armenians are Turkey’s largest Christian minority population and celebrate the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem as well as the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6.
There are an estimated 65,000 Armenian Orthodox, 15,000 Syriac Orthodox, 8,000 Chaldean Catholic and 2,500 Greek Orthodox Christians in Turkey. There are also members of other denominations such as Bulgarian Orthodox and Georgian Orthodox, as well as Protestants.