January 6th marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas and of the Christmas holidays. The Greek Orthodox Church observes the baptism of Jesus Christ by St John the Baptist and the blessing of the waters.
In all coastal villages, towns and cities in Greece and Cyprus, a long procession starts soon after the church service heading to the seafront. When the priest throws a large cross into the sea, young men brave the cold waters and compete to retrieve it. The one who finally recovers the cross is said to have good luck throughout the year.
Also known as "Fota" or "Theophania" - the Feast of Light - Epiphany celebrates the revelation of God's Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. After the church service, people get "drossos" or "ayiasmos" - sanctified water which they drink. They also use it to sprinkle their houses, thus receiving Jesus Christ's blessing. Just like on Christmas Eve, on Epiphany Eve, children sing "Kalanda ton Foton" - Epiphany Carols - over sweets or a small amount of money.
According to an Epiphany tradition in Cyprus, people throw sausages or "loukoumades" - local honey doughnuts - to the goblins so that they eat and go away. Goblins are deformed demons living in the bowels of the earth and appearing on Epiphany Day to dwell the roofs of people's houses.
In Larnaca, the blessing of the waters was heavily attended and, considering the crowds, it was practically impossible to approach the marina and take photos of the priest throwing the cross into the sea. It was a brilliant celebration which both Alkis and I enjoyed very much.