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EPIPHANY: THE BLESSING OF THE WATERS
by Gary Van Haas

The Greek Festival of Epiphany, or 'The Blessing of the Waters', is held every year on January 6 throughout all of Greece. This is the special occasion when many daring young Greek men brave the chilly waters to dive for a cross after it has been blessed by a priest and thrown into the water. For his gallantry, the first man who recovers the cross is said to have good luck throughout the coming year. The day long festival also features the blessing of small boats and ships, and later on affords entertainment, music, dancing and food to all those present.

But Epiphany is not just a Greek event, it is also celebrated around the world on January 6 by the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches as well. In Tarpon Springs, Florida for instance, this particular event is held in high regard and has become a world class tourist attraction, which draws more than 40,000 visitors a year. Of course, Tarpon Springs has never looked like a typical Florida community to begin with and it probably never will. As one strolls along Dodecanese Boulevard, it tricks one's senses as the aroma of freshly baked Greek pastries and festive Greek melodies fill the air. Fishermen, shopkeepers and other businessmen exchange greetings in Greek. No need to double check your passport, this is Florida, even though one has the impression of strolling through a seaside Mediterranean village on the Greek islands.

The Epiphany festival is said to have originated in the Eastern Orthodox Church, where it is also still recognized as the anniversary of the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Western churches. Epiphany principally commemorates the revelation to the Gentiles of Jesus Christ as the Savior, as portrayed by the coming of the Three Wise Men. Most of the major festivities of Epiphany in Greece are held in the large Athens port of Piraeus, however, activities are also held in many towns and villages throughout Greece.



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