For the 115th year, the Greek community of Tarpon Springs, Florida, held its historic Epiphany ceremony on Wednesday — albeit differently due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A young diver emerged from Spring Bayou with the cross nonetheless, as 16-year-old Colten Sakadales received cheers from the limited number of onlookers including family members, Greek Orthodox church parishioners and leaders such as Archbishop Elpidophoros of America.
“I don’t know how I feel, I just feel blessed,” Sakadales said in an interview with The Tampa Bay Times. “I don’t know what to say — I don’t even have control of my body right now, it’s so cold.”
According to tradition, the 16-year-old will be rewarded with a year of blessings.
Archbishop Elpidophoros tweeted his remarks on the event and shared a photo of himself blessing one of the young divers.
“We bless these waters today, and we bless your lives with the Cross. You are all blessed by its Sacred Immersion today,” he wrote. “Lift up the Cross in your hearts and your souls. As you dive into the depths to retrieve it, know that Its holy power can lift you to your eternal salvation.”
Event organizers allowed 860 pre-ticketed parishioners to gather around Spring Bayou in socially-distanced areas while 110 family members of the divers remained in their own designated space. Approximately 30 news media representatives were allowed to cover the event.
The Tarpon Springs Epiphany ceremony normally attracts thousands of spectators in what is the largest celebration of its kind on this side of the Atlantic.
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