Annual blessing of the grapes celebrated globally in Armenian churches
When I was a young child, my mother would take me to the annual Blessing of the Grapes Armenian ceremony and picnic every August.
To be honest, I hated going – not because of the ceremony, the grapes, or the inevitable snow cone melting down my forearms. Rather, because all those older Armenian ladies would give me slobbery kisses and pinch my cheek proclaiming my cuteness. And everybody spoke Armenian, which I didn’t understand.
Once I was a young adult, I began to appreciate the endless ceremony, historical pomp, and Old Testament tradition steeped in symbolism. Unfortunately, I was rarely in the town where I was born anymore to appreciate the richness of the Blessing of the Grapes tradition. In 2016, however, I returned there just to sink once again into the tradition. The ceremony originated as a blessing of what is considered the first harvest of the season — the grapes — and this fruit had a special place of honor at the event and picnic.
Food, music and traditional dancing at the Armenian Blessing of the Grapes
The Blessing of the Grapes Ceremony still takes place at Armenian churches all around the world in mid-August. For curious travelers, it remains a worthwhile tradition to visit and will feel as if you are in a different country. Anybody can attend, of course, and after the service and blessing – in Armenian with chanting, singing, prayers, a sermon and plenty of incense emanating from the so-called “censer” that is swung by participating priests – there is traditional food, music and dancing.
It is also a good place to pick up some food or baked items to go, since the church “ladies” (yes, yes, they still call them that…) bake and cook their heads off for weeks and weeks so you can buy plates of sweet paklava, bags of breads (chorag or ketah), baskets of fruit, and other goodies.
Mid-August date based on the “Feast of the Assumption”
The date is not an exact one but is around the time of the “Feast of the Assumption,” also known as the “Assumption of Mary,” in mid-August (on or around the 15th). That means it will usually take place around the second or third weekend in August, on a Sunday, and if there are two churches in town – as there are in Fresno, Calif., where I was born, they usually agree on separate weekends. For example, in 2017, the St. Paul Armenian Church in Fresno will celebrate on Aug. 13, while Holy Trinity Church – with its building on the National Register of Historic Places — will have its event on a different weekend most likely.
In 2016, at the ceremony I revisited, I still could not understand the Armenian spoken (unfortunately), but I could fully bask in the rich cultural history, traditional music, fantastic food, and dancing to one of the best-known “oud” string musicians in the world, Richard Hagopian (if you like the traditional sound of his instrument, the oud, you can purchase Hagopian’s albums through Amazon here).
Enjoy a quick photo tour of the Blessing of the Grapes
Click on an image below to launch the slide show with captions. Use the arrows to the left and right of the screen to navigate back and forth.
HITT me with quick facts and travel tips
Need a place to stay in Fresno? We recommend using Booking.com which offers fantastic selection and low rates.
When you are in Fresno, check out the Fresno Underground Gardens and to learn what else to do be and where to eat, be sure to read What to do in Fresno on a Highway 99 road trip in California.
Be prepared for anything. No matter where you travel in the world anything can happen, even on vacation in Fresno. Don’t leave home without the right travel insurance. We use Global Rescue for emergency evacuation coverage, advice, and for travel insurance that offers a “cancel for any reason” option. Be sure your trip to Fresno is covered!
Find more things to do in Northern California
Our Most Recent Travel Stories
Since COVID-19 is likely going to be around for a while, even after vaccinations, safe road trips may be the best answer to see new places. With our road trip safety essentials list, you can avoid relying on restaurants and make less frequent trips to stores so you can focus on having fun and traveling well.
It has been a very long 2020 but through it all we found our readers still wanted to dream of travel, to think about travel, and to plan for travel. This was made clear with our Top 10 Stories of 2020 as selected by our readers and what they viewed. Local and regional U.S. stories, stories that highlighted adventures closer to home and ideas for road trips, sprinkled with a few topics drawn from our archives allowed us and our readers to keep dreaming of travel in 2021.
These are our best Instagram photos of 2020 – voted on by our followers with their likes and shares. We hope our travel photos will help inspire you to plan future travel, dream of destinations near and far, and start your travel bucket list for 2021 … and beyond.