Friday, January 5, 2024

Epiphany Celebration

Tarpon Springs hosts one of the largest Epiphany celebrations outside of Greece.  So, what is this Epiphany celebration all about?

Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs has more Greeks per capita than any other American city. The Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs dates back to 1906.  It's the largest Epiphany celebration in North America and draws more than 20,000 spectators, about as many people who live in Tarpon Springs.  My guess is that half those in attendance are residents, the other half are visitors.

The period between Christmas and Epiphany is called Dodecameron, or the Twelve Days. It is considered one continuous festive period and is where the term “Twelve Days of Christmas” is derived. Epiphany, also called the Theophany (meaning “appearance of God”), celebrates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan by St. John the Baptist. The first account of an Epiphany celebration is attributed to Clement of Alexandria (d. 215 A.D.).  (Information is from the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral website)

Above is this year's schedule.  From the night of the 5th through the night of the 6th it is a very busy celebration.

What most non-Greek people think of the most when they say "Are you attending Epiphany this year?" is the tossing of the cross into Spring Bayou.  20,000 or so people line the banks of the Bayou.  At the appropriate time, the highest Ecclesiastic Authority in attendance, typically an Archbishop, reads out of the holy book the Baptism of Jesus by John, he blesses the Cross and the Waters, a Dove is released by a young lady, and then he tosses the Cross into the Bayou.  The boys, ages 16-18 years old, jump into the water to find the cross which sinks down into the water. The Cross is 'found' and raised up out of the water by the young man who has probably fought off others who try to take it away before he breaches the surface.  They all swim over to the platform where the Archbishop is, and the young Cross bearer is blessed by the Archbishop, and then he is raised on the shoulders of the other swimmers and carried back to the Church.

Note:  The pictures above were taken by me in past years.  The pictures below are from news sources of previous Epiphany Celebrations.
The Dove is Released.

The Cross Swimmers are headed to the boats which are in a half circle...

...the cross is tossed into the middle, they dive into the water and the fight is on.  Note the boys in diving position on the boats waiting for the Cross Toss.

 The Cross is retrieved and held high into the air.

The young man who retrieved the Cross is carried back by the other swimmers to the church with Cross and Trophy in hand.  This young man is "SUPPOSED" to be blessed for the rest of the year...but the reality is that with some of the young men it has been more of a curse...but we won't go there...

The celebration moves over to the Sponge Docks where food and music are made part of the festivities.  That night the Epiphany Ball is held and there are unofficial fireworks and celebrations until the wee hours of the night throughout Tarpon Springs and the surrounding area.  (Yes Indy, you will have to deal with some fireworks tomorrow night, but it won't be too bad here in our neighborhood.)

FYI:  We do not attend any of the celebration, but have watched the Cross Toss via live television which includes four or five helicopters and numerous news people scattered all over the celebration area.


  1. That's so interesting, Dave. Thanks for sharing and a Happy New Year to you, Marcia, and Indy!

  2. We went to Tarpon Springs last time we were in Florida. Interesting area. I don't know if it's on our travel route this year or not. The boss just tells me where to go and I go there.
    Very interesting stuff about Epiphany!

    1. Well, if the 'Boss' sees your way over to the west coast of Florida, let us know and perhaps we can meet at one of our local breweries.

  3. I've never heard of that before. What a great celebration!!! Thank you for sharing.

    1. It is an Orthodox Church celebration. Marcia grew up in the Orthodox Church but switched over to the Ecclesiastical Church. She still cherishes many of the celebrations and even general services of the Orthodox Church, especially Greek Orthodox.


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