Monday, 6 January 2014

Going overboard about Epiphany

Come on in, the water's lovely.
So that's it, Christmas over and done with because we've had Epiphany (yet another word we get from Greek). For the Orthodox church Epiphany is when Christ was baptised, while in the Western church it tends to be the commemoration of Christ's manifestation to the Wise Men. Religious experts may wish to correct me, but I think I've got that right.

Here on Skopelos, and in many places around Greece, and probably elsewhere, the occasion is marked by a cross being flung in to the waters of the harbour and then retrieved by brave young men who dive in while large crowds in big coats watch from the quayside. This is not something for the lily-livered. Last year, when it was very cold, only one man did it. This year, there were four, which all adds to the excitement.

No one is going to hang around once they're in the water.
 The swimmer who retrieves the cross is assured of blessings and good fortune, so there is competition to be the person who gets to it first, but remember this is NOT a sporting contest. It is very much about the religion which threads itself through so much of life here in Greece.

A priest holds the cross after it was retrieved from the harbour. In
the background are some of the swimmers.
And just for the sake of completeness, let us not forget that Epiphany with a lower case e - epiphany - can mean a sudden revelation of the essence or meaning of something. I wonder if our brave young swimmers had an epiphany about the wisdom or otherwise of diving in to the chilly waters of the harbour in January this morning.

Their work here is done, time for a hot shower.