While the Christmas decorations of most Burbankers are now all nestled away snug in attics or closets, local Armenians continue holiday celebrations well into the first month of the year.
Armenians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6, and the spirit of the season was still alive and well this past week as the Burbank chapter of the Armenian National Committee of America, or ANCA, gathered at the Armenian Cultural Foundation’s Beshir Mardirossian Youth Center for their annual Christmas celebration.
The reason Armenians celebrate Christmas later than others stems back to the end of the third century. When Roman Christians made the decision to recognize the birth of Christ on Dec. 25 to coincide with a pagan holiday, the date was not accepted by the Armenian Church, which maintained the ancient tradition of celebrating the birth and baptism of Christ on Jan. 6.
At last week’s Christmas celebration, officers and members of the local chapter of the ANCA welcomed guests from a wide range of the community including elected and appointed officials, as well as representatives from civic, business and charitable organizations.
This yearly reception provides the committee, their supporters, and the public with time to reflect on their previous year’s accomplishments and give thanks to Burbank community leaders for their continued support.
Over the years, the committee has established and built upon many of their advocacy and youth programs. Through their commitment to community relations, they have worked with numerous local nonprofit organizations, worked to mitigate conflicts at local schools, and educated students on Armenian history. They have also continued to expand their athletic, scouting and other youth programs, and continually encourage Armenian Americans to participate in public service with nonprofits and to serve as elected officials and on city boards and commissions.
Since its establishment, the committee has forged excellent relationship with local government representatives and kept them apprised on issues facing the Armenian community. In 2022, the Burbank City Council, encouraged by the committee, sent a letter to President Biden and members of the U.S. Congress condemning Azerbaijani’s attacks on Armenia and Artsakh and demanded the suspension of any military aid to Azerbaijan.
Welcomed by Sarkis Simonian, who serves as the chair of ANCA Burbank, the gathering was introduced to Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who serves the 5th supervisorial district, which includes Burbank. She adamantly promised continued support from the county on issues facing Armenians, both in their homeland and within the Armenian diaspora.
Speaking passionately of time she spent in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital city, Barger recognized the resilience and strength of the Armenian people she has seen firsthand.
“I continue my unwavering condemnation of Azerbaijan, demand the release of hostages, and stand in solidarity with those living in Armenia as well as those here in Southern California,” said Barger.
Other dignitaries out in support of the work of the local chapter of the ANCA were Arda Tchakian, who serves as a district representative for state Sen. Anthony Portantino; Burbank Mayor Nick Schultz; Vice Mayor Nikki Pérez; Councilwoman Zizette Mullins; Burbank City Treasurer Krystle Ang Palmer; and Burbank Unified School District Board Vice President Armond Aghakhanian.
Acknowledging Barger’s strong commitment to Armenia, Schultz assured the assemblage of Burbank’s continuing dedication to the Armenian community.
“We embrace our Armenian brothers and sisters — your issues are our issues — and we stand alongside you,” said Schultz.
The event’s honored guest was Gev Iskajyan who serves as the executive director of the San Gabriel Valley chapter of the Armenian National Committee of America.
Having spent considerable time in Artsakh, Iskajyan updated attendees on Azerbaijan’s brutal attacks and blockades.
Speaking with hope and determination, Iskajyan reported that the people of Artsakh are ready to do whatever it takes, as they have time and time again, to fight with their mind, heart, and all their might.
“Artsakh doesn’t just represent a small corner of the world; Artsakh represents all people throughout the earth who believe in freedom, who believe in the right to self-determination, who believe in human rights, who believe in a better future. We can’t just put our heads down and give up thinking that it’s all pointless,” said Iskajyan. “From our homeland to Burbank, we must all hold our heads high, dust ourselves off, and know how much we have to fight for.”
Other notables in attendance included, the local chapter of ANCA’s co-founder Garen Yegparian, and longtime committee member Hagop Hergelian, Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority Commissioner Emily Gabel-Luddy, Lusine Simonyan of the Burbank Armenian Association, and Burbank Police Commission Vice Chair Romik Hacobian who also serves on the board of directors at the Burbank Armenian Association and is a member of the Los Angeles County Regional Committee of the Armenian Assembly of America, the largest, nonpartisan Armenian advocacy organization in the United States.
The Burbank chapter of the ANCA is a grassroots public affairs organization established to inform, educate and act on a wide range of issues concerning Armenian Americans throughout the area. The Burbank committee has a long and growing tradition of serving the Armenian American community and has drawn its strength from dedicated members who have been successful in unifying Burbank’s Armenian Americans behind a common and positive agenda.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at email@example.com or (818) 563-1007.
First published in the January 27 print issue of the Burbank Leader.