Despite the heat, thousands turned up at Carss Bush Park in Sydney’s south on Sunday, January 7 to witness as the Blessing of the Waters ceremony took place in the Georges River for the first time.
The ceremony was organised at Carss Park by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia (GOAA) instead of Yarra Bay this year – a move which broke with decades of tradition and received mixed reactions on Sunday.
Archbishop Makarios of Australia presided over the Blessing of the Waters ceremony as dozens young males attempted to retrieve the Holy Cross from the river. Low tides made the dive difficult, with some left feeling disappointed.
Nevertheless, a worthy victor was crowned – Michael Solidakis, a parishioner from the Greek Orthodox Parish and Community of Kogarah. All the dive participants congratulated Mr Solidakis on his victory and wished him good luck for the year ahead. He was also awarded a gold cross by the Archbishop.
Following the Blessing of the Waters ceremony, Archbishop Makarios addressed the crowd and spoke about the importance of renewal in the New Year.
“As we reflect on the past year, we reflect on the highs and the lows, the pain and triumphs, the struggles and the consolations. And as we look to the future, we make new resolutions for the year ahead. We set goals and consider how we will achieve them,” the Archbishop said.
“As you make your new year resolution, I encourage you to make this your primary resolution, ‘to renew your commitment to Christ’.”
The Epiphany Greek Festival followed the Blessing of the Waters ceremony. The event included a rich traditional music and dance program, as well as over 60 stalls offering a wide array of traditional Greek food, sweets, products and services. There were also rides and activities for children.
In terms of entertainment, the day featured a live performance from Greek singer Stella Konitopoulou and her band direct from Greece, music by Tommy Tsonis on bouzouki, Theo Skaltas on klarino, and Nikita Ellenis.
A number of dance groups from across Sydney also performed traditional Greek dances throughout the day.
Among the dignitaries present were the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Yannis Mallikourtis; the Deputy Head of Mission at the Cyprus High Commission, Stavros Nicolaou; Bishop Iakovos of Miletoupolis; Bishop Christodoulos of Magnesia; the NSW Minister for Multiculturalism, Steve Kamper MP; the NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, Sophie Cotsis MP; the NSW Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Natalie Ward MLC; the Mayor of Georges River Council, Cr. Sam Elmir; and the President of the Greek Festival of Sydney, Nia Karteris.