The Greek Orthodox celebration of the Epiphany is celebrated every January 6th across the globe. On Sunday, over twenty Greek-Australian boys and men participated in the dive to fetch the cross tossed into the warm waters by Bishop Ezekielat at Princess Pier, in Melbourne.
It is believed that the person who retrieves the cross will be blessed with good luck for the rest of the year.
This year’s event was also blessed with sunny, warm weather, leading to an impressive attendance for the celebrations on this final day of the Christmas holiday feasts. The Epiphany is when Christians celebrate the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist. The holiday is also referred to as the “Theofania” or “Fota”.
Traditionally, following ceremonies at a local Greek Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox worshippers form a procession and gather at the water bank for the Blessing of the Waters ceremony before the dive.
The events in Melbourne this year were attended by members of the Greek Orthodox community, as well as various political leaders such as MP Martin Foley and Victorian Liberal leader Michael O’ Brien. MP Foley commended the multicultural spirit of the festivities and community, saying that is exactly “what we revere and celebrate today,” according to smh.com.au.
Twenty-five swimmers, all male, dove into the water with hopes of retrieving the cross. This year, victory was claimed by a 19-year-old diver, Nikos Hatzidimitriou.
Originally from Limnos, the third-generation Greek-Australian teenager is a physiotherapy student and has participated in the dive for the past four years. 2019 was his lucky year, as his mother and sister cheered him on in the crowd standing at the pier.
Celebrations continued after the retrieval of the cross by Hatzidimitriou with the traditional annual gala “Paniyiri” feast.