By Father Zaven Arzoumanian, PhD

Leap Year 2020
The Armenian Church yearly calendar has its special setting for the groupings of the religious feasts, those known as Dominical Feasts, cycled around the date of Easter Sunday. Some of the observances have fixed dates as they are independent from the cycle given the fact that their dates are compatible with the data found in the Holy Scriptures. Others, specified as national and cultural feasts, emerge from the religious aspect of the life of the Armenian Church and people. Fasting days are predominant in numbers.

The following study will show at a glance the variety of the observances, their groupings and their duration through the year. Dates shown correspond to the Leap Year 2020. The main source of this study is the “Tonatsooyts”, the Church Calendar of the Armenian Church printed in Jerusalem Armenian Patriarchate in 1915. Next year is Leap Year and our church calendar has indicated the calculation of its 366 days peculiar feasts accordingly following the double digit Letters of the Year. The second shall govern the feasts up to the Great Lent, and the first the rest of the year, beginning with Easter Sunday.

By virtue of their nature the feasts and their observance comprise three categories as follows:

a) Dominical Feasts, to commemorate the life and the ordinances of Jesus Christ, and to venerate the memory of the Mother of God Saint Mary.
b) Saints Days, designated to commemorate the lives of the Biblical and historical Saints, the latter have reached the level of sainthood by canonization, whereas the former are sanctified directly by their origins from the Holy Scriptures. Inter-church Saints are included in the church calendar in addition to the national Saints.
c) Fasting Days, designated for repentance and prayer for our own souls and for those departed in Christ. The main part of the fasting is the Great Lent. Also major feasts are preceded by weekly fasting days, all for the main purpose to prepare the faithful spiritually to worthily welcome those respective feasts.

Dominical Feasts
1. Pertaining to Jesus Christ:
Nativity and Epiphany, January 6 (fixed date)
Baptism, January 6 (fixed date)
Naming, January 13 (fixed date)
Presentation, February 14 (fixed date)
Transfiguration (Vartavar) Sunday, July 19 (14 weeks after Easter)
All Sundays of the year
Great Lent February 23, Raising of Lazarus (April 4)
Palm Sunday (April 5), Holy Week (April 6-11)
Resurrection, EASTER SUNDAY (April 12)
Ascension (Thursday May 21) 40 days after Easter
Second Palm Sunday (May 24)
Pentecost (May 31) 50 days after Easter

  1. Dedicated to St. Mary Mother of God:
    Birth, September 8 (fixed date)
    Annunciation, April 7 (fixed date)
    Discovery of Jewelry box, July 5
    Discovery of belt, August 30
    Presentation, November 21 (fixed date)

  2. Feasts of the Holy Cross:
    Apparition of the Cross (Sunday May 10)
    EXALTATION OF THE CROSS (September 13)
    Holy Cross of Varak (Sunday September 27)
    Discovery of the Cross (Sunday October 25)

  3. Feasts Dedicated to the Church:
    Six days following the Exaltation (September 14-19)
    New Sunday (April 19)
    World Church Sunday (April 26)
    Holy Etchmiadzin Sunday (Jun 14)
    Shoghagat, vision of St. Gregory the Illuminator (Saturday August 15)

Saints Days
In the Armenian Church Saints are observed on four weekdays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Sundays are dominical days dedicated to the resurrection of Christ. Wednesdays and Fridays are fasting days. 89 Saints are derived from the Holy Bible and are known as Biblical Saints, both from the Old and New Testaments. The rest are from the first five centuries of Christianity. They represent the Apostolic Fathers of the 2nd century, and the Church Fathers of the First Three Ecumenical Councils to the end of the 5th century. Later the Armenian Church added more Saints through the 5th and the 14th centuries, mainly from the Fathers of the Armenian Church.

Fasting Days
According to the Tonatsoouts the fasting days are specified as follows:

All Wednesdays and Fridays of the year, except those during the 50 days following Easter.

Weekdays preceding the following major feasts. Major Feasts require fasting periods for spiritual preparation. They are:
Holy Nativity of Jesus, 6 days
49 days of Great Lent, including Palm Sunday and the Holy Week, preceding Easter
Transfiguration of the Lord, 5 days
Assumption of St. Mary, 5 days
Exaltation of the Holy Cross, 5 days
Fast of Catechumen, 5 days
Fast of Prophet Elijah, 5 days (seasonal, before summer)
Fast of St. Gregory the Illuminator, 5 days
Fast of Holy Cross of Varak, 5 days (seasonal, before fall)
Fast of Advent, 5 days
Fast of St. James of Nisibis, 5 days (seasonal, before winter)

The total of the above fasting days is 100 days. Grand total of fasting days shown in the Church Calendar is 140.

Given the above distribution of the three groups, Dominical, Saints, and Fasting, the respective figures of the days through the entire year stand as follows:
Fasting Days 140
Non-fasting Days 57
Saints Days 114
Sundays 44 (excluding Lenten Sundays)
Others (fixed dates) 11
TOTAL 366 days

Note: “Others” include the following 11 fixed dates:
Christmas Eve January 5
Nativity of Jesus January 6
6 days of Nativity January 7-12
Naming of Jesus January 13
Presentation of Jesus February 14
Birth of St. Mary September 8

Even though the present study indicates dates for the 366 days of the Leap Year 2020, it is applicable for other years as well, requiring necessarily the guide of the two-volume Tonatsooyts of the Armenian Church. The first volume governs the feasts, and the second calculates the dates accordingly.

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