Epiphany in Ermioni

Epiphany is celebrated annually on 6th January, also known as the Holy Theophany, the 'Yala-Yala' or ta Fota (the lights) it is one of the most sacred and holiest Feast Days on the Greek Orthodox calendar.  According to three of the four gospels, Epiphany celebrates the revelation of God when, during the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist at the River Jordan, the voice of God is heard from Heaven saying "You are my Son, the Beloved - with you I am well pleased."  The tradition that takes place amongst Greek Orthodox churches worldwide is the blessing of the waters with the Holy Cross by the local priest.  The faithful are blessed by the priest, who holds the Holy Cross in his hand and dips Vasiliko (basil branches) into the Holy Water, and then sprinkles it on the forehead of each parishioner.

Following the Taxiarches church service in Ermioni, led by a brass band, priests and local civil dignitaries (including the Regional Mayor of Ermionida) a procession made its way down to the Limani waterfront.  At the harbour-side, a white dove was released into the sky and the priests threw a Holy Cross and Holy Icon into the sea, to be retrieved by swimmers that jumped into the cold sea from nearby boats.  The young men who retrieve the Holy Cross and Holy Icon are said to be blessed for the year ahead.  The annual 'Yala-Yala' event is then followed by local traditions, food and dancing as it concludes the festive Christmas holiday period.

Fourteen young men took part this year, after finishing high school, with many soon starting their military service with the Hellenic Army and Navy.  The Holy Cross was retrieved by Kosmas Lalousis, and the Holy Icon by Emmanuel Giokas.  The two young men were presented with a golden cross-and-chain by Papa Yiannis and the Regional Mayor of Ermionida, Mr Ioannis Georgopoulos.

A Happy 'Name Day' to everyone celebrating today . . . names include Fotis, Fanis, Fotini, Fotoula, Theofanis, Theofania, Faye, Jordan, Danny, Dana and Rania.  Wishing you all love, happiness and above all good health.   'Kala Theofania and Xronia Polla!'

In the town of Drama (as well as some surrounding villages) in Macedonia, citizens continue to observe the annual pagan festival of 'Arapides'.  This is a custom of Dionysian descent which has its roots in ancient Greek history, that culminates on 6th January.  With men dressed in pointed goatskin hats, black capes, cowbells and wooden swords, the whole day and evening is devoted to dancing, singing, feasting and drinking, with symbolic visits to the deceased at the cemetery, token kidnapping and ravishing of 'maidens' symbolising resurrection and fertility of nature after winter, a good harvest, and for people to have many strong children.