Sping Bayou is a small park with a lovely lake in a older, upscale neighborhood in Tarpon Springs. I imagine it’s a rather quiet place on any other day than yesterday, because it was the Greek Orthodox celebration called the Epiphany, and it’s cause for quite a celebration in this proud Greek town. In fact this was the 115th celebration, and in this year of COVID it was a drastically scaled down event. It was reported that only half of the 800 parishioner passes to view the event had been handed out, so as my first time to view it gave me a better view than normal since my son had passes for us to attend. We didn’t attend the four hour mass to start the day, and the procession from the church to the park happened more quickly than usual, so we found ourselves in the midst of what is the main event of the day earlier than most of us expected. Each year a cross is blessed and thrown into the water, and this year there were 55 16-18 year old boys of the parish who dove into the water to try to retrieve the cross and bring honor to their families.
As you see in the feature photo, we arrived to see the arches where the divers would pass under to take their places on the dock. They would first jump into the water and swim to the waiting boats, and from there they would dive in and try to retrieve the cross as it was tossed. As you see below, safety was a big concern with a rescue boat and divers in full scuba gear in the water to keep the boys safe.
The police presence was felt, but they were mostly giving directions, and as you see there were mounted police of every description there to help.
Soon we saw the boys in their white tee shirts walking under the golden cross to take their places.
The priest blessed the cross, blessed the water, and asked God to protect us all during this time of COVID.
And then came the moment for the boys to jump into the water and swim to the boats to be ready to try to be the lucky one to retrieve the cross.
As they all kept jumping in I understood the need for the drivers to be there, but they safely made it into the boats and soon it was time. I concentrated on the priest to try to catch the moment when he threw the cross, but I was a second too soon. My son had told me that there would be a release of a dove, which I also managed to miss.
Here they all are, swimming for the cross, and the moment that I first saw that someone had come up with it. It only took a few seconds.
Now wrapped in towels the boys hoisted the winner onto their shoulders and paraded him back to the church while the last of the boys were still climbing the ladder out of the water. This year there were no concessionaires there to tempt us with their great Greek food. Not so much of a festival atmosphere. But the tradition was respected, and if the prayers are answered the celebration will continue en force next year.