(I wrote and photographed this a few year back; I doubt that I could do it better today…)
Despite the usually bitter cold of the January morning, there are always brave young men, different each year, who dive to retrieve the cross the third and final time the priest casts it into the sea…
Epiphany (January 6), or Day of the Light –ton Photon in Greek— is an important religious and cultural celebration that marks the end of the holiday season. Up until the 4th century A.D. Epiphany was considered the first day of the year, observed as a three-day commemoration of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River. People believed that on the eve of the 6th the skies open, granting the prayers of the devout.
Some anthropologists link Epiphany with the ancient Athenian ceremony of plynterion, the cleansing of the goddess Athena’s statue. During that ceremony, she was taken to the seaside in Faliron to be washed in the sea, thereby renewing her mythical powers. Similarly, as the anthropologists have noted, the church icons are often washed prior to the Epiphany celebration.
Nearly 2000 years ago the first Christians celebrated with long street processions, white candles in hand (a tradition modern Greeks preserve during the Resurrection ceremony, on Easter), hence the term Epiphany, the Day of the Light. Jesus intrinsically blessed the water by his immersion in it, and each year Greek Orthodox priests perform a ritual, casting the cross into the water, replenishing Jesus’ blessing in the water and on the community, as well.
All over Greece different forms of fried pastry are prepared in celebration: dilpes, pastry squares or ribbons, like the spectacular kserotigana of Crete, and loukoumades, dough puffs similar to Italian zepolli; photopites, the spicy-sweet fritters of Amorgos are the most interesting of the kind. (more…)