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Orthodox believers celebrate the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin

Today Orthodox believers celebrate the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin - one of the Twelve Great Feasts.

It is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God, marking his Incarnation. This day the Holy Ghost is supposed to come upon Mary, and she conceived the Infant God.

The term "annunciation" means "spreading the Good News" that marked the beginning of forgiveness of mankind's sins.

If the Annunciation falls on the Great Lent, the lent becomes less strict. It is observed even when it falls on Pascha (Easter Sunday) itself. The ancient tradition tells: There wouldn't have been any other Great Feasts, if there hadn't been the Annunciation. The festal Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is always celebrated on the feast following the night service. After the night service bread and salt are consecrated.

Our ancestors used to say: "the Annunciation is the greatest God's feast." People associate the Annunciation with the beginning of spring. Our ancestors believed that on the Annunciation day God blesses the land for harvesting, fertility, i.e. for the mankind's prosperity. And the Virgin Mary was thought to be the patroness saint of harvest. People waited for migratory birds to return on this day, and farm works followed the Annunciation. There was the tradition of releasing birds, so that they could sing songs ad majorem Dei gloriam.

Holy bread was baked on the Annunciation, and a coin was put there for luck. This bread was put either into seeds, or buried in corners of fields to protect the future harvest. People believed that the weather on the Annunciation predetermined the weather on Easter.

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