The 114th Epiphany celebration took place in Tarpon Springs, Florida with Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elpidophoros of America officiating and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis observing.
Thousands of onlookers watched as dozens boys from St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral jumped into the bayou to retrieve a cross in a ceremony that commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ, which Orthodox Christians celebrate on January 6th.
Hunter Sakadales, 18, retrieved the cross from the water and, according to tradition, has received a year of blessing.
This year marked Archbishop Elpidophoros’ first year officiating the historic ceremony — the largest in the Western hemisphere — since he became leader of the Church in America in June 2019.
In an interview with local NBC affiliate WFLA, the archbishop said he was excited to take part in the event for the first time.
“I want to express my joy and happiness that I am with you for the first time as archbishop,” he said.
Each year, dozens of young men dive into the water to retrieve the cross after the archbishop throws it into the water.
Greek Orthodox communities throughout the world practice the centuries-old tradition, which celebrates Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.
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