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Tarpon Springs Epiphany in 2022 to open again to public

Tarpon Springs’ 116th Epiphany celebration will not have the attendance restrictions that were enforced last year amid the pandemic.
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America tosses the cross at Spring Bayou during the 115th year of the annual Epiphany celebration on Jan. 6, 2021, in Tarpon Springs.
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America tosses the cross at Spring Bayou during the 115th year of the annual Epiphany celebration on Jan. 6, 2021, in Tarpon Springs. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Dec. 30, 2021

TARPON SPRINGS — St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral’s 116th annual Epiphany celebration will be open to the public next week following last year’s event that was scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Jan. 6 event will not have the attendance restrictions that were enforced last year for the church service or diving of the cross at Spring Bayou, according to media and publicity director Johanna Gatzoulis.

Considered the largest Epiphany celebration in the Western Hemisphere to commemorate the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River, the Tarpon Springs event traditionally draws more than 20,000 spectators.

But last year, amid the pandemic, the Cathedral closed the event to the public, allowing only parishioners to attend the church service at half capacity and encouraged only family of the cross divers to gather around the bayou. About 1,000 spectators spread between Spring Bayou and the area outside of the church.

“It feels fantastic to actually be able to present this to the public and for everyone to be able to attend this year,” Gatzoulis said.

RELATED: Epiphany 2021: Diver Colten Sakadales, 16, retrieves cross in Tarpon Springs

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, along with Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta will be participating in the morning church services.

A girl makes a picture of clergy during the Orthros (Matins) and the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy inside of Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral during the 115th year of the annual Epiphany celebration on Jan. 6, 2021, in Tarpon Springs. Presiding, at left, is His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
A girl makes a picture of clergy during the Orthros (Matins) and the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy inside of Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral during the 115th year of the annual Epiphany celebration on Jan. 6, 2021, in Tarpon Springs. Presiding, at left, is His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Following the Divine Liturgy, clergy, dignitaries, children in traditional Greek costume, bands and choir, and 68 divers will proceed to Spring Bayou for St. Nicholas Cathedral’s tradition. The cathedral selected Gibbs High School junior Katerina Lecourezos, 16, as the dove bearer, who will release the bird following the Great Blessing of the waters to symbolize the Holy Spirit flying over the Bayou.

After the Archbishop casts a white cross into the water, the 68 divers, all young men in good standing with the church, will dive from boats into the water to retrieve it. Tradition says the one who emerges grasping the cross is rewarded with a year of blessings.

115th year of the annual Epiphany celebration on Jan. 6, 2021, in Tarpon Springs, in and around the Spring Bayou and Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral 36 N Pinellas Ave, Tarpon Springs.
115th year of the annual Epiphany celebration on Jan. 6, 2021, in Tarpon Springs, in and around the Spring Bayou and Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral 36 N Pinellas Ave, Tarpon Springs. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

“It’s not only a religious holiday but also the biggest holiday for the whole city,” Mayor Chris Alahouzos said. “The whole city of Tarpon Springs, everybody is celebrating. Every resident is part of it.”

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This will be the second year that the Cathedral has canceled its Glendi festival, which usually closes out the day with Greek dancing, music and food. It was scrapped last year due to precautions for the pandemic, but Gatzoulis said this year’s Glendi was canceled due to a lack of volunteers.

However the Cathedral has been working to extend Epiphany into a week-long celebration. This year will mark the inaugural Epiphany Lecture, where Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis will speak on the topic of “On Earth as in Heaven: Spiritual Roots of the Ecological Crisis,” according to a news release. The lecture will take place Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Cathedral. It is free and open to the public.

On Jan. 8, St. Nicholas will also host a tournament at Innisbrook Golf Resort and an Epiphany Ball at Spanos Pappas Community Center, according to Gatzoulis.

Alahouzos said this year’s Epiphany celebration is elevated because it will overlap with Tarpon Springs’ finalization of its Sister City agreement with Chania, Greece, on Jan. 7.

A delegation of five government officials from Chania will travel to Tarpon Springs for the events, Alahouzos said. On the island of Crete, Chania hosts the U.S. Naval Base in Souda Bay and is also the ancestral home of sponge divers who relocated to Florida for Tarpon Springs sponge industry.

“This is the exchange of education, the exchange of culture and economic development,” Alahouzos said. “We have many things in common.”

IF YOU GO

WHAT: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral’s 116th annual Epiphany celebration

WHEN: Jan. 6; church services begin at 8 a.m. Procession to the Spring Bayou is expected to begin around noon

WHERE: 36 N Pinellas Ave, Tarpon Springs

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