August is now here and in the Orthodox tradition, this is the month for the customary (at least in the home country) blessing of the grapes. In other words, invoking the divine to shed his benevolence upon each and every grape that we consume, be it the fruit itself or the juice or the wine that we drink. Trust me, as Greeks, we do consume quite a bit of wine and have a remarkable ability to eat an impressive number of grapes.
August is also the month that many countries with a predominantly Orthodox population have the “blessing of the fleet.” No matter if the fleet is a small handful of sailing vessels that go out to sea to fish, or to transport, or to defend our shores against those who would do us harm (invade our lands and slaughter our families). We usually ask that they all be blessed with divine tidings of deliverance and guidance. And divine intervention in the case of any emergency or event.
August is also a time for we Greek ex-pats (patriots in exile) to return to the homeland and reunite with our families. This is one August tradition that I devotedly try to perform. I’ll drink wine that hasn’t been blessed, eat unholy grapes and sail in a boat that hasn’t been sanctified. However, I know that if I miss an August reunion with my family, I’d better be dead or else I soon shall be.
There are some things in life that simply aren’t done. Family is one of those things. Greeks can be a very unforgiving race when they need to be. Greeks are family and family is Greece. That’s the way of life. Opa` ellas!
I’ve never before experienced the wrath of my entire family and all of the other Greeks scattered throughout the world. I’m alive and in reasonably good health. Aaron, my spouse, is indeed accepted and loved by my entire family. I’d prefer to keep the situation as it is. As long as there is harmony and peace inside the family, there’s really no need to invite disharmony and dissension within the ranks.
The legendary Greek deity, Dionysus (pictured left), is the patron of both wine and revelry as well as ritual madness, fertility, the theatre and religious ecstasy. It seems all of these were compatible even “back-in-the-day” before mass-marketing, celebrity watching and social media addiction. I’m sure somewhere, there was scribbled a note on a men’s room wall that stated: “For a really good time call Dionysus at ——-!” Seriously, the god was often associated with androgynous young men and in the image he does appear somewhat pansexual (gender fluid). In the Roman age. Dionysus was known as Bacchus and his name became synonymous with partying with wild abandon.
However, as Aaron and I fly away to Greece, our purpose is to spend time with my family and not to party into oblivion. We will also observe our third wedding anniversary while there. The celebrations will involve family and not strangers. Both my maternal and paternal families each hold impressive reunion gatherings during August and we’re both eager to be present. This year, the timing of our trip to coincide with our anniversary was deliberate. My cousins who were unable to be present for our wedding insisted as a way of compensation for missing our “big day.”
And the wine will flow. There are some aspects of August that are naturally contained in our Greek DNA, among those treasured aspects are our love of family and our love of the grape (wine)!
And the grapes will be devoured! My oldest living aunt (Mother’s sister) makes this delicious grape pudding using my Grandmother’s recipe. Noneh (maternal grandmother that translates as “grandmother” in Armenian) was half-Armenian and this pudding recipe was from her mother’s and is “too die for!” (both figuratively and literally)! Both Aaron and I can scarcely wait to have some again – and again. My aunt has promised Aaron her recipe written in Noneh’s own handwriting. An heirloom for both our hearts and stomachs!