When the Greeks came and settled in Tarpon Springs, Florida, they brought their expertise in sponge diving, extraordinary cuisine, and a unique manner of celebrating the Epiphany, called Theophany by the Greeks.
Often overshadowed by Christmas, Epiphany is one of the most sacred Greek Orthodox celebrations. It honors the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.
The Tarpon Springs Theophany (Epiphany) Tradition began in 1903 and has evolved into a day-long affair. The festival begins at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral with Orthros, Archierarchical Liturgy, and the Greater Blessing of Waters, followed by a procession through the town to Spring Bayou for the Blessing of the Bayou and Casting of the Cross.
Once at the bayou, an archbishop tosses the cross into the water. Teenagers then take their positions on boats around the Bayou and dive into the waters to retrieve the cross. The young man who brings the cross back up to the surface is said to enjoy a special blessing, and good luck, for the following year and also has his name inscribed on the statue outside the cathedral.
Know Before You Go
As the largest Epiphany (Theophany) celebration in the world and one of the only places outside of Greece where the holiday is observed in this manner, the annual event now draws thousands of visitors. The festival following the casting of the cross, Epiphany Glendi, lasts the rest of the day and is free to attend. Similar Theophany celebrations, but perhaps not quite as well attended are also done in New York, Chicago, Long Beach CA, and elsewhere there are large Greek Orthodox populations