Epiphany is a Greek Orthodox Religious celebration (associated with the Baptism of Christ). In Hydra and Kamini parts of the church services include the Great Blessing of Waters at both Hydra and Kamini harbours. The priests cast a cross into the sea to bless it and youngsters compete for the honour of retrieving the cross from the freezing water. The winner receives a prized blessing for the year.
Epiphany (Ἐπιφάνεια - Epiphaneia)
Text, Video & Photo Gallery by Kelsey Edwards
Copyright HydraDirect 2015
Article photographs reproduced with kind permission from Σπήλιος Σπηλιώτης of HydrasPoliteia Copyright 2015
The Greek Orthodox Churches perform the Great Blessing of Waters on the 6th January. The blessing is normally done twice: once on the Eve of the Feast, usually at a Baptismal font inside the church and then again on the day of the feast, outdoors at a body of 'living water', which in Hydra, is the sea at both Hydra harbour and Kamini harbour.
Epiphany in Hydra starts on the evening of 5th January, with services at all the main churches. The congregation leave with some of the sanctified water so, with prayers, they can bless themselves and their homes. Some will even drink the 'Theophany Water'. The priests will quite often visit their parishioners to bless homes, the shops and boats during the week following Epiphany.
The actual day of the Epiphany starts at 09:00 with the Great Sanctification taking place at the Monastery Cathedral of the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, in Hydra Town, and since 1963, at the Church of St John the Baptist in Kamini.
In Hydra Town, following the Divine Liturgy, the clergy and people go in a Crucession (procession with the cross) from the Cathedral and up Andreas Miaoulis Street to the wells at Kala Pigadi. After blessing the water of the wells and offering prayers, the Crucession makes its way back down to Hydra harbour by about 11:30.
The priest casts a cross into the water at which point the young people of Hydra (traditionally it's always been the young men of the island, but these days one of two of the girls take part) leap and dive in after it. The person who gets the cross first swims back and returns it to the priest, who then delivers a special blessing to the swimmer and their household.
Epiphany is considered to be one of the most important of the Orthodox Church's annual observations, however, it has to be said that the closing race to retrieve the cross is a very jolly and light-hearted part of the service. Even when the sun shines, as it did in 2015 when Lakis took the wonderful photographs that illustrate this article, the temperature is still only just above freezing. Watching the bravado wilt when the swimmers start to strip off and the wind begins to bite – well you have to grin in sympathy!
As you can imagine, the 'swim' starts and is over very quickly. The swimmers are hauled out and hastily wrapped in towels often while they are being blessed.
This part of the service takes about fifteen minutes and then the Crusession returns to the church and everyone heads for the nearest café serving hot drinks.
Click first thumbnail image to start the slide show.