The Epiphany and the blessing of the waters

The holiday of the Epiphany in Greece is celebrated in a picturesque custom, according to which the waters are blessed during a ceremony in which a priest tosses a crucifix into the sea, a river or lake – or even a well. After the church service, crowds of the faithful march in a parade outside the church and the bells peal joyfully. Standing on a palm frond-decked platform, the bishop or priest reads the Gospel and, chanting «Christ was baptized in the River Jordan,» throws the crucifix into the water. Despite the cold waters and chilly air, young men dive in and race to be the first to find the crucifix and bring it up to the surface (it is usually found tied to the end of a blue ribbon). The proud victor raises the cross in the air, kisses it and swims back to shore to return the cross to the priest before receiving the congratulations of all present, as well as sweets and small presents. The day before, that is, on Saturday this year, children all around the country sing Epiphany songs in which the Virgin Mary asks John the Baptist to baptize Christ in the River Jordan. The photograph accompanying this text is from Yiannis Rouskas’s book «The Pinios in Art.»