Tarpon Springs, FL Celebrates 105th Year of Epiphany Events

Last year D. Kalogiannis of New Port Richey found the cross during the dive into Spring Bayou

One day each year, eyes from around the world focus on Tarpon Springs, FL as thousands of religious pilgrims and spectators flock to the city. Millions more watch on television.
Jan. 6th is the Feast of the Epiphany.  It is a day for prayer and pageantry, visiting with friends and relatives and watching as young men of Greek heritage dive for a cross in the often-chilly waters of Spring Bayou.  The waters are located at the western end of Tarpon Avenue.
This is the 105th Epiphany rites for St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
In the Greek Orthodox and other Eastern Rite churches, Epiphany commemorates the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.
The local Epiphany 2011 observance will begin at the Byzantine style cathedral on Orange Street and Pinellas Avenue around 9:30 p.m. It will offer solemn chants and prayer services, including a Hierarchical Devine Liturgy. The church is usually packed with parishioners.
Following church services, around 12:30 p.m., there will be a procession to Spring Bayou.  Young men of Greek heritage will dive for the cross.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, will lead this year’s celebration. He will be joined by Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta, the Rev. Michael Eaccarino, dean of St. Nicholas Cathedral, and clergy from around the world.
Various dignitaries, school children in traditional Greek costumes, the St. Nicholas Cathedral Choir and others will take part in the processional march to the bayou.
Once at the bayou, more than 75 young men age 16 – 18 will dive for the cross this year.  105 doves, one for each year of the local Epiphany observance, will be released. The birds symbolize the Holy Spirit.
The youth who retrieves the cross is hoisted on the shoulders of his fellow divers and carried back to the cathedral to be blessed.
Following the ceremony, the Epiphany Glendi, or celebration, will be held from 1:30 – 9 p.m. at Spanos-Pappas Community Center Theofilos Hall, adjacent to the cathedral. There will be savory Greek delicacies, drinks, music and dancing. Admission is $3.
One of the newer Epiphany events, Cross Divers Dance, will take place starting a 7 p.m. on Jan. 2nd, at the Spanos-Pappas Center. The 2011 edition of the dance, the third, will honor Emmanuel Gombos, an assistant principal at Tarpon Springs High School.
Gombos dove for the cross in the late 1960’s.  He has been helping organize the local Epiphany activities since 1975 and is known for his philanthropic activities.
Tickets for the dance are $25 per person.
A blessing of the fleet will take place from 11 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, Jan. 5th, at the Sponge Docks. Clergy blesses the fisherman, their vessels and the water on which they sail.
People planning to attend Epiphany 2011 should arrive early to find parking downtown, organizers say.
(source: tbo)