Hudson’s 17-year-old Anderson Combs is the lucky teenager who retrieved the coveted holy cross from Spring Bayou during St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral’s 110th annual Epiphany celebration.
Archbishop Demetrios, head of U.S. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in New York City, officiated the Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs on Wednesday morning starting with a liturgy in the 800-seat church. The archbishop then led a procession from the church to Spring Bayou.
Demetrios dropped the white wooden cross in the water to bless it. A total of 52 teens jumped in the water to retrieve the cross, as tradition dictates.
Combs came up on the surface of Spring Bayou only 15 seconds later, holding the coveted cross. The Hudson High School student was carried back to the church on the shoulders of fellow divers.
The Tarpon Springs Epiphany celebration is the largest in the United States and as many as 20,000 people attend each year. A wooden cross is thrown into Spring Bayou and the teenager who brings it to the surface receives a year of blessings.
The Greek Orthodox ceremony of blessing the waters commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.