Yesterday, Marash Girl wrote a post sharing her curiosity: Where and when and how is the term Hye Krisdonya - հայ քրիստոնեայ used? (Scroll down to see Marash Girl's blog post for yesterday, or simply click this link.)
"Ask and it shall be given . . . " and ask she did. Krikor Maksoudian - today, Father Krikor . . . Marash Girl's friend and classmate of many years ago. . . He would know! And he did!
In response to Marash Girl's query, Father Krikor wrote the following (reprinted below with many thanks).
The expression HAY KRISDONIA was/ is widely used in the Middle East. Local Armenians of our days have obviously forgotten many expressions used by their parents and grandparents.
I see the phrase listed under the word ՔՐԻՍՏՈՆՅԱ in <<Ժամանակակից հայոց լեզվի բացատրական բառարան>> ["Descriptive Dictionary of Contemporary Armenian"], vol. 4, Erevan, 1980, p. 753. The dictionary has a citation from the writer Aksel Bakunts, who flourished in the 1920-s and became a victim of the Stalinist purges in the 1930-s. Bakunts, being from Zangezur in southeastern Armenia, wrote in Eastern Armenian. The citation can give you some idea about the usage and meaning of the expression. Here it is: "Since I was baptized in the [baptismal] font, I am, therefore, a HAY KRISDONYA."
At our extremity of the Armenian world, namely Cilicia, western Anatolia and the Middle East in general, the term, in addition to being a reference to one's baptismal identity, stands as a designation that distinguishes an Armenian from other Christian minorities. In most cities under Ottoman rule, the minorities lived and worked in the Christian quarter, which in turn was divided into smaller quarters. Each minority--Armenian, Greek, Armenian-Greek, Assyrian, Chaldean and so on--had its own quarter/quarters.
HAY KRISDONIA should not be understood as if KRISDONIA is merely an adjective and HAY is a noun. To a semi=literate population prior to the mid-1850-s it was probably one word. HAY could not be anything else but KRISDONIA. People who had converted to Islam or to the Greek Orthodox faith were not considered HAY. The designation HAY HOROM for the Greek Orthodox Armenians is relatively new. The actual designation was HOROM [=a person of the Byzantine Rite]. To this day, the Catholic Armenians living in the northwest of the Republic of Armenia say that they are Prank [=Frank] to distinguish themselves from the HAY KRISDONIA. As for the Armenian Evangelicals, neither emotionally nor in real life did they consider themselves as being separate from the rest of the Armenian world. To them, the Armenian Church was always the MOTHER CHURCH.
It’s difficult to say when the expression HAY KRISDONIA began to be used, since it is more colloquial, as you could see in the citation above. My suspicion is that it is a Modern Armenian expression probably going back a few hundred years. Don't forget that the beginnings of Modern Armenian go back to the 15th century.
In our times, Armenians from the Middle East use the term to distinguish an Armenian -- be it Aposltolic, Catholic or Evangelical -- from an Arab Christian, and by "Arab Christian" they understand Christians who are Arabic speakers.
Fr. Krikor Maksoudian
Fr. Krikor added, "P.S. I am Marashtsi on my grandmother’s side (Topalian)."