Glendale hospitals help local Armenians celebrate Christmas Eve

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You may have thought Christmas had come and gone, but some communities are still celebrating. Thursday is Christmas Eve for Christians in the Armenian church, who celebrate Jesus's birth every Jan. 6.

Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center, housed in one of the area’s largest Armenian communities, is hosting its annual observance with a special guest. Archbishop Moushegh Maddirossian, prelate from the Western United States, visited the center along with one other Glendale hospital on Thursday.

Glendale Memorial spokeswoman Arpi Kestenian spoke about the impending visit.

“We’ll do a celebration of Christmas, we’ll do a blessing of the water, he will give his kind words..."

She summed it up with two words: "Bountiful blessings.”

Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian and Archbishop Hovnan Derderian toured the hospital Thursday evening, visiting patients and blessing gata bread (a traditional Christmas dish for Armenians).

At the Glendale Adventist Medical Center, the archbishop handed out the blessed bread and Dixie cups of holy water to the patients that wanted them, shuffling from room to room.

Alicia Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the Center, spoke of one 65-year-old woman who took a loaf and cup to share with her children when they came to spend Christmas Eve surrounding her hospital cot.

The event has been running for "at least a decade," Gonzalez said, but it's only been in recent years that the attendance has "sky-rocketed."

"Last year we had a couple seats still available," said Gonzalez. "This year, no seats. People standing all over the place, in the main room, in the hallways."

She agreed with Kestenian's assessment of the event as a blessing.

"There was at least one patient I noticed that was not Armenian," she recalled. "But he sat there and there were tears in his eyes. He was touched by the ceremony even though it was mainly done in Armenian."

She sighed. "It was very beautiful."

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