Thursday 7 January 2016


Epiphany in Greece is known as Theophania or Fota. After church on the morning of the 6th of January a procession forms that leads to a body of water: it could be the sea, a river or even a reservoir. After a short ceremony the priest throws a cross into the water, thus blessing the water. Then, some daring souls who are prepared to brave the icy cold waters jump in and compete in the retrieval of the cross. The one who brings the cross up to the surface will enjoy good luck and health for the entire year, it is said.

Except that this year the sea was not icy cold. The temperature was up to 20oC and I wore a t-shirt when we went to Palaio Faliro to see the retrieving of the cross.

Because the Archbishop was present, the whole place was packed. It was very difficult to get a good view of the proceedings but I managed to get some shots of the swimmers.

A traditional ritual in the middle of the 21st century: the drone hovering over the swimmers, a testament to the merging of the old and the new.

The whole process was rather disappointing this year. Usually the priest throws the cross as far as he possibly can and then the retrievers swim, dive deep, and try to get the cross. This year the cross was tied to a long ribbon that the priest kept a hold of, retrieval was very easy and accomplished by the one who could push the others away: a bit like a rugby tackle in water. No skill involved and a real anti-climax.

The flares from the boats provided some excitement.

Then it was all over and the procession formed yet again and slowly made its way back to the church .

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