Fresno Church Marks Century of Grape Blessings

Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, second from left, blesses a table full of fresh grapes during the 100th annual Blessing of the Grapes and picnic at the California Armenian Home in Fresno (photo by Craig Kohlruss – The Fresno Bee)

FRESNO, Calif. (The Fresno Bee)—Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church celebrated one of its oldest traditions – the blessing of the grapes – for the 100th time Sunday.

The downtown Fresno parish, which was established in 1900, held its first grape blessing in the summer of 1913.

Special events for the 100th anniversary of the Traditional Blessing of the Grapes and Festival were held at California Armenian Home, 6720 E. Kings Canyon Road.

His Eminence Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America in La Crescenta, celebrated Badarak (divine liturgy) at 10 a.m. and the grape blessing at 11:30.

The blessing of the grapes is a tradition dating to ancient Armenia at the beginning of harvest in mid-August, marking a time of rebirth and regeneration.

Priests went into the vineyards to conduct solemn ceremonies. They carried a pair of clippers in their right hand and a cross in their left hand. They asked God to bless the grapes and save the vineyards from natural disaster. After the ceremony, parishioners exchanged best wishes.

Levon Baladjanian, chairman of the Holy Trinity picnic committee, says the grape blessing in Fresno captures an important part of Armenian faith and culture.

“It’s quite a tradition – the blessing of the soil, the harvest, the hope in praying for the success of the harvest,” Baladjanian says. “The grape was symbolic of the homeland. When Armenians came here in the 1890s, a lot of them brought their agrarian life here and they farmed grapes.”

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