ANKARA: Anatolian Christians To Celebrate Grape Festival


Hurriyet Daily News

Aug 12 2011

Greeks, Armenians and Syriac Christians in Anatolia are observing a
grape fast by refraining from eating from the new harvest until the
fruit is consecrated in church on Sunday and Monday. Churches across
Anatolia will be celebrating the festival with special masses on Aug
14 and 15

Baskets of grapes blessed in churches will be distributed among the
people on the day of the mass, after which time the fast is broken.

Christians throughout Anatolia are preparing to celebrate the Grape
Festival and the Assumption of Mary on Aug. 14 and 15 with a variety
of activities that stretch back into the pre-Christian era.

Churches across Anatolia will be holding mass for the occasion,
including the Church of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus, Sumela Monastery
in Trabzon, the Syriac Deyr ul-Zafaran Monastery in Mardin and
the Surp Asdvazsazsin Armenian Church in Vakıflı, Anatolia’s last
remaining Armenian village, which is located in the southern province
of Hatay. During the celebrations of mass, newly harvested grapes
will receive blessings as part of the festivities.

Assumption Day celebrates the ascent into heaven of Mary in accordance
with Christian tradition. The roots of the festival, however, date
back to the polytheistic era prior to Christianity; when Anatolian
peoples were Christianized, new year celebrations and the vine harvest
festival of the ancients were replaced by the Assumption Day and the
Grape Festival, respectively.

Greeks, Armenians and Syriac Christians in Anatolia observe a grape
fast and refrain from eating from the new grape harvest until grapes
are consecrated in church. Ostentatious celebrations are also held in
churches across Greece, as well as in the Central Armenian Apolostic
church of Etchmiadzin in Armenia, the seat of the Catholicos of
all Armenians.

Baskets of grapes blessed in churches are distributed among the people
on the day of the mass, after which time the fast is broken, according
to tradition, by eating blessed grapes mixed with non-consecrated
grapes. The grapes also symbolize fertility and abundance.

Different Stories

There are several stories in circulation regarding the origins of
the Grape Festival and Assumption Day. According to a story that
has been transmitted through the ages within the Armenian community,
when some children were poisoned by eating grapes that had not yet
become ripe, the founder of the Armenian church, Surp Krikor Lusavorich
(Saint Gregory the Illuminator), issued a ban on eating grapes until
harvest time.

Such traditions have been preserved intact for centuries by being
transmitted from generation to generation among the many Christian
Anatolian peoples. This year’s celebrations will begin in the morning
hours and last until around noon on Aug. 14 and 15. Baskets full of
grapes will decorate sacred tables in churches.

Visitors are welcome to any number of Greek, Armenian and Syriac
churches in Istanbul on Sunday and Monday to observe the vine harvest
festivities during mass.

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