Skip to comments.100th Epiphany Day Event Will Be Global Celebration
Posted on 01/05/2006 3:20:08 PM PST by DocRock
CLEARWATER - For its 100th anniversary, the Tarpon Springs annual Epiphany Day celebration is going international.
And it's doing so in a big way.
His All Holiness Bartholomew, the ecumenical patriarch of all Eastern Orthodox churches, will travel from Istanbul, Turkey. High-ranking Orthodox clergy from around the world are expected to attend, as well as ambassadors to the United States from Greece, Turkey, Russia and Cyprus, representatives of the U.S. Senate and House and, possibly, the White House, said Bill Planes, chairman of the Patriarchal Centennial Visitation Committee.
And when 53 teens, most of Greek descent, dive into the waters of Spring Bayou to retrieve a cross thrown in celebration of Orthodox Epiphany, the baptism of Jesus Christ, much of the world will be watching.
The event, beginning with morning services at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, will be televised live.
"We expect to reach 177 countries, with 360 to 400 million viewers," Planes said.
Numerous changes have been made to accommodate the thousands of additional spectators expected to attend. Some are intended to allay residents' concerns about the influx of visitors, Planes said.
The Epiphany Glendi, or "happy party," which begins after the cross retrieval and runs until midnight Friday and from noon until midnight Saturday, has been moved from Craig Park to the Sponge Docks, where streets will be closed off and Greek dining and other cultural offerings will abound.
To maximize the number of people who can attend the Liturgy that precedes the diving for the cross, an open square on the north side of St. Nicholas Cathedral will be enclosed with tenting, and it, along with the community hall on the cathedral's south side, will be turned into an extension of the cathedral. That will allow about 1,000 to participate, three times the cathedral's normal capacity, Planes said.
The usual seats in the sanctuary will be reserved for the Yiayia Des, the widows and grandmothers who never miss a service, he said.
Also, there will be big-screen televisions set up at the cathedral and at Spring Bayou so the crowd waiting to see the cross divers can watch the Liturgy and those who attend the Liturgy can see the cross dive, a first for Epiphany Day.
"I think it is going to be more inclusive and less exclusive," said Planes, an archon of the Order of St. Andrew, who nonetheless acknowledged that, with just 12 years of membership at St. Nicholas, "I'm probably a baby to the community."
The Epiphany Day celebration has come a long way from the first Dive for the Cross in 1906. That was organized by a handful of sponge divers who emigrated from Greece the year before.
In the early celebrations, divers who retrieved the cross were allowed to dive again in ensuing years. That practice ended in the 1930s, after Ierotheos Athanasiou, who had retrieved the cross for three years in a row in the mid-1920s, retrieved it a fourth time.
The original crosses were made of gold, but several were lost or broken during the dive, prompting a switch to weighted wooden crosses in the 1960s.
All divers receive a special blessing, and the diver who retrieves the cross receives an additional blessing that is said to stay with him throughout the year. The cross retriever also receives a gold cross necklace and a trophy.
In 2000, an emphasis on the spiritual side of the dive was reinforced at the direction of the Rev. Tryfon Theophilopoulos, who died in 2004 after serving as dean at St. Nicholas for 30 years.
The previous year, two former cross retrievers were charged with attempted second-degree murder after a road rage incident left two Tampa men seriously injured.
Now, in addition to being Orthodox Christians in good standing, cross dive participants, ages 16 to 18, must attend church and go to confession on a regular basis and take two special seminars. The youths must apply for the honor of diving and are selected by a church committee.
Epiphany Day begins early with prayer services at St. Nicholas Cathedral. It is considered the oldest and largest such celebration in the United States and is designated as the official rite for the Western Hemisphere.
After a procession from the cathedral, a dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit is released. The dove bearer is a teenage girl selected at the Christmas Day service. The 2006 Dove Bearer is Kaliope Hatzileris.
Live web broadcast available at http://realserver.goarch.org/2006-patriarchal_liturgy/.
My wife's going to attempt to go over to Tarpon tomorrow to see it. I think she's crazy.
The regular Epiphanys are crowded enough- this one will be outrageous!
Check out the legends of the Epiphany winners. The boy that finds the cross is supposed to have a year of good luck, but statictically, their lives turn out to be more tragic than the general population.
"I'm a little out of the loop as I just happen to have married a fabulous Greek girl about 23 years ago but I'm a Fundamental Baptist."
You must be one tough nut to crack, my friend! I'll ping the list.
Doesn't the GOC celebrate Christmas in January? Will the Epiphany dive precede Christmas?
Once you get around to posting those photos, could you ping me on them? I'd love to take a look.
Well, at least there's some regional news coverage today. Somehow, I don't think CNN et al will grasp the fact that the Ecumenical Patriarch is visiting the States is a big event.
I was up in the middle of the night and CNN had a mention of it in the screen crawler at the bottom of the screen.
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