CULTURE

The Epiphany, and the Blessing of the Waters

Overshadowed by the recent tragedy on the shores of Southeast Asia swept by tsunamis that resulted in the deaths of around 160,000 of our fellow human beings, the Orthodox festival of the Epiphany was celebrated in ports around Greece’s shores from the Aegean to the Ionian seas, the Festival of Lights, the Blessing of the Waters, a promise to seamen that they will have safe voyages. As the women of Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand search the shores for their lost children and curse the sea, the world has rallied to offer material and monetary aid to the hungry and homeless populations. A telemarathon held by the state media ERT-ERA and NET and the radio station Skai 100.3 raised the sum of 17 million euros, putting Greece seventh on the list of donating countries, ahead even of the USA in proportion to its population. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis thanked the Greek people in a letter, while State Minister Theodoros Roussopoulos thanked the media and ERT president Christos Panagopoulos and all those who contributed to the success of the drive. On January 6 during the Blessing of the Waters, when a crucifix is thrown into lakes, rivers and coastal waters, the prime minister and his wife Natassa were on the Dodecanese island of Karpathos with Minister for the Aegean Aristotelis Pavlidis. President Costis Stephanopoulos officiated, for the last time before his term ends, at the ceremony in the port of Piraeus, where swimmers were not permitted to dive into the murky waters of the country’s biggest port to retrieve the cross, as is the custom. In Thessaloniki, however, young men dived into the Thermaikos and it was Yiannis Goutsiotis who retrieved the carved wooden crucifix dating from the Byzantine period, a sign that the sea had indeed been blessed.