Tarpon Springs celebrates the Epiphany on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 with religious services and the famous ‘diving for the cross.’ The observance commemorating the baptism of Christ features several dozen Greek male teens (78 are expected) diving into Spring Bayou to retrieve a white cross thrown into the water by Archbishop Demetrios, archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
The largest ceremony of its kind outside of Greece, the Epiphany Celebration begins at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral at 36 N. Pinellas Ave. with an 8 a.m. church service in the Greek language and liturgy at 9:30.
At noon Archbishop Demetrios performs the blessing of the waters followed at 12:30 p.m. by the traditional procession of clergy, schoolchildren, band, choir, divers and dove bearer from the cathedral to Craig Park at Spring Bayou. Most of the one-half mile procession route is on Tarpon Ave. between Pinellas Trail and Spring Blvd.
At the bayou, teen divers wait in boats for the Archbishop to bless a white cross. After blessing the cross, a dove is released and the cross is thrown into the water. The divers plunge into the water to retrieve the cross; the one who brings it up hopes to receive a divine blessing. This year an additional 105 doves will be released to commemorate the 105th anniversary of the dove ceremony.
Following the diving ceremony, it’s Greek festival time, known as Glendi. The largest Glendi is at the Spanos-Pappas Community Center Theophilos Hall at 348 N. Pinellas Ave. The Glendi includes Greek food and beverage along with live music and traditional dancing from 1:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $3.
Tarpon Springs has long been a favored spot of visitors to the Tampa Bay area. First attracted by the spawning tarpon, later immigrants from Greece made a successful industry from diving for the plentiful sponge. The sponge docks and the surrounding area provide a fascinating peek into one of the largest Greek communities in the U.S.
This event draws thousands of visitors and free parking is limited. A trolley runs between downtown and the sponge docks where paid parking is available. Call 727-937-3540 or visit epiphanycity.org for more information. Click here for a map to Tarpon Springs.
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