FRESNO—On Sunday, August 11, the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church and the Fresno Armenian Community celebrated the Centennial Anniversary of the Grape Blessing Ceremony and Festival in Fresno County, preserving centuries of tradition that has been carried out by the Armenian people since ancient times. On this 100th anniversary festival, Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian celebrated Divine Liturgy, followed by the Blessing of the Grapes. The event was held at the beautiful grounds of the California Armenian Home. More than 2,000 people from the Central Valley and the Los Angeles area attended.
The Prelate delivered a spiritually uplifting sermon to the Fresno Armenian Community saying, “The importance of tradition cannot be overstated. Traditions such as this distinguish us as a people; they bridge us to our rich and ancient heritage, they impart a sense of belonging. Along with our language, our age-old customs are our identifying marks. It is not an easy feat for this community to continue this tradition for the past one hundred years. The fact that we are celebrating the centennial of the grape blessing and festival speaks volumes about this community’s love and reverence for our religious and national heritage and your commitment to carrying on the unique traditions that contribute to who we are.”
The Prelate emphasized that “The reason we are here today celebrating this centennial is because the first settlers, recognizing the great value of such customs, passed on the tradition to their children, who in turn passed it down to their children, and so on.” The Prelate took this opportunity to thank the American people for providing a safe haven to those earliest Armenians who fled persecution and Genocide in our ancestral homeland and found refuge in this great land we are proud to call home. “We pray for God to bless the United States of America, this nation of liberty, equality, and opportunity; to bless this land, the laborers, and the harvest we offer today in thanksgiving”, stated the Prelate.
The day progressed with festivities where families and friends enjoyed traditional Armenian music provided by Richard Hagopian and his band and played their favorite pastime games. This annual event has become an opportunity for friends and relatives to visit each other and enjoy a great fellowship in a beautiful setting.
The Holy Trinity Church Men’s Society arranged the BBQ, and the Ladies’ Guild members prepared a variety of freshly cooked Armenian foods and pastries. The Church also offered visitors an abundance of newly harvested fruits and vegetables at its Farmer’s Market that were packaged and supplied by devoted church members.
“Our goal is to keep the Armenian Apostolic Church tradition alive”, said Richard Bedoian, Chairman of Holy Trinity Church Men’s Society. “We thank everyone, including our growers who helped us put this event together.”
In the Armenian culture, the grape is considered to be the “queen of all fruits.” In ancient Armenia, mid-August was the beginning of the harvest and a time of rebirth and regeneration, where a solemn ceremony took place in the vineyards. The priest would ask God to bless the vines on which the grapes ripened and beseech God to save the vineyards from evil in the form of natural disasters, such as hail, frost, drought, high winds, and harmful insects. Now in the United States, through the ceremony the Armenian priest extends this blessing beyond the grapes to all the fruits and vegetables that the farmers in the San Joaquin Valley produce and supply to the world.
“We are thrilled to witness that our faith and culture are bringing together the 4th and 5th generation Armenian-Americans to celebrate this centuries old tradition”, said Varoujan Der Simonian, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Holy Trinity Church. Der Simonian added that the agricultural base of Fresno County has contributed greatly in keeping this tradition alive.
“Once again the Fresno community came forward and attended our annual picnic,” commented Levon Baladjanian, Holy Trinity Board of Trustees member and treasurer of the Men’s Society. “It keeps our church staying strong while serving our parishioners and the community.”