On January 6, Tampa Bay’s Greek Orthodox community will celebrate its 109th Epiphany ceremony in Tarpon Springs, where one of the largest Epiphany celebrations in the Western Hemisphere is hosted. The highlight of the event is the throwing of the cross into Spring Bayou.
The Epiphany is a celebration of the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. On Tuesday, the city’s 109th Epiphany celebration is expected to draw as many as 20,000 Greek Orthodox Christians, church and government dignitaries, locals and tourists who will watch, as 50 teen boys, in a quest for a year of blessings from God, dive into the bayou to retrieve the white cross.
The feast of the Epiphany celebrated in Tarpon Springs, is considered to be the most impressive in the U.S. as the ceremonies are identical to those taking place in and around Greece.
The full two-day event schedule for the Epiphany celebration is as follows:
Monday, January 5
Arrival of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios. Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta will be among the participants in this year’s observance.
Noon to 1 p.m.: The fishermen, their vessels and the water will be blessed for safe and prosperous journeys.
Tuesday, January 6
8 a.m.: Orthos & Divine Liturgy Epiphany Services at St. Nicholas Cathedral, 36 N. Pinellas Ave
11:30 a.m.: Great Blessing of the Waters
12:30 p.m.: Procession- Hierarchs, clergy, dignitaries and thousands of faithful onlookers will form a stirring procession to Spring Bayou, led by altar boys, school children in traditional costumes, choir members and Greek Folk dance groups from throughout the Tampa Bay area.
1 p.m.: Dive for the Cross- The Archbishop will cast a custom-made, specially weighted, white wooden cross into the water and some fifty young men will dive for the honor of retrieving the Holy Cross. In a moving scene, the retriever will kneel and present the cross to the Archbishop and in return, receive a blessing.
1:30 to 6 p.m.: The Epiphany Glendi (celebration) will include food, drink, live music and dancing and will be held at the St Nicholas Spanos-Pappas Community Center. At the Glendi, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios will honor the Epiphany divers and the Cross retriever.