TARPON SPRINGS — For five years, Kiersten Spanos watched as other choir girls were chosen to carry the dove that represents the Holy Spirit during the annual Epiphany Celebration.
This weekend, it’ll be her turn. A priest announced her as this year’s dove bearer during services on Christmas Eve.
"I’m really excited and it’s a very big honor in my culture because I’m holding the representation of the Holy Spirit," said Spanos, a 15-year-old Tarpon Springs High sophomore.
During the 112th Epiphany Celebration on Saturday, Spanos will sing in the choir and then join the procession from St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral to Spring Bayou while carrying a white dove that symbolizes the Holy Spirit of the Holy Trinity of God.
She will release the dove along the banks of Spring Bayou before the Epiphany cross is thrown into the water. Then, 57 boys ages 16 to 18 will jump in. The swimmer who retrieves the cross is said to receive one year of blessings.
Often called the largest celebration of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, Epiphany is a Christian ceremony that celebrates the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.
Choir director John Lulias described Spanos as a smart and talented girl who is actively involved at the church. Besides singing in the choir, she’s also in the dance ministry and attended Greek school, where children learn Greek and the country’s history.
"She has embraced everything about the Greek culture, the religion, the church, and to me that’s a wonderful thing to see that," Lulias said.
Besides singing, Spanos plays the cello in Tarpon Springs High’s orchestra. A lover of animals who feeds stray dogs on family vacations in Greece, she’s also enrolled in a veterinarian assistant class at school and volunteers at Westlake Animal Hospital and the Vet Clinic of Palm Harbor.
It was a surprise to hear her name announced as the dove bearer, Spanos said, because "there are other girls that are in the choir that deserve it just as much as I do."
"It was kind of surreal," she said. "I was very happy."
Her grandmother, Fay Spanos, is also in the choir and said the family is thankful that Kiersten was chosen to carry the dove.
"She’s a very bright young lady with many, many talents that the Lord has blessed her," the elder Spanos said. "This honor that she’s representing I know will touch her heart and that it will carry her throughout her life. I know this. I feel it very deeply."
Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] Follow @lauracmorel.