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Greek communities across Australia celebrate the traditional Blessing of the Waters

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By Andriana Simos, Argyro Vourdoumpa and Evelyn Karatzas.

The traditional Blessing of the Waters was held in South Australia, Canberra, Tasmania and the Northern Territory over the weekend to much joy from the parishioners who attended.

Priests held special church ceremonies at picturesque locations, as young men jumped off jetties to reach the Holy Cross which was thrown into the water.

Here’s our list of all the winners and events which were held across Australia:

South Australia:

The Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia (GOCSA) held its annual Blessing of the Waters at Henley Beach, Adelaide on Sunday afternoon.

Twenty swimmers attempted to retrieve the cross, including two females. The winner was 17-year-old Vasilis Tsoubarakis.

“The annual Blessing of the Waters ceremony at Henley was lower key than normal, but it still was a wonderful example of multiculturalism and tradition. I would like to thank everyone who attended,” President of the GOCSA, Bill Gonis, tells The Greek Herald.

Besides parishioners and onlookers, there were also a number of officials in attendance. These included: The Hon Rachel Sanderson MP, State Member for Adelaide and Minister for Child Protection representing the Premier Steven Marshall; The Hon Irene Pnevmatikos MLC representing the Leader of the Opposition Mr Peter Malinauskas; Deputy Lord Mayor City of Adelaide Mary Couros, on behalf of the Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor; and a number of other local politicians.

READ MORE: Winner of SA’s eventful Blessing of the Waters to be presented with his award next week.

Following the success of this event, Mr Gonis says the GOCSA will hold a number of other events this year as well, subject to COVID restrictions of course.

“Events will include celebrating our 90 year anniversary, as well as the global celebration of 200 years of Greek Independence. Our events program will be confirmed soon,” Mr Gonis says.

Christos Mavrogiannis donated white doves to the GOCSA for the Blessing of the Waters event. Photo: Facebook / GOCSA.

As this event was unfolding, the Greek Orthodox Community and Parish of The Nativity of Christ in Port Adelaide was holding its own Blessing of the Waters.

The sun was shining as parishioners walked from the church down to the local Fishermen’s Wharf Markets, where two young men jumped from the jetty to race for the Holy Cross.

Ultimately, Connor Ramos was successful in retrieving the cross and he was later given a gold cross necklace by the local parish priest.

Canberra:

On Sunday, the Parish of St Nicholas in Kingston, Canberra celebrated the Epiphany day with a special church service, followed by the “Blessing of the Waters” event at Casuarina Sands at the Cotter River.

The event was attended by Reverend Father Petros from Canberra’s St Nicholas church, Rev Father Iakovos from Queanbeyan’s St Demetrios Church, the Ambassador of Greece, his Excellency Mr George Papacostas, the High Commisioner of Cyprus, Mrs Martha Mavrommatis, President of the Greek Community & Church of Canberra, Mr John Loukadellis, President of the Samos Association in Canberra, Eleni Gianakis, as well as many members of the Canberra Greek community and surrounds.

Canberra celebrated the “Blessing of the Waters” event at Casuarina Sands at the Cotter River.

There were five young boys who participated in the dive for the holy cross, with Emmanuel Papanicolaou coming out victorious after successfully retrieving the cross. All boys were given a blessing by the priest, as well as an icon depicting the Baptist of Jesus Christ.

A lunch was available to those with an appetite, consisting of a Greek style bbq with chicken and pork souvlakia, Greek salad and drinks.

“It was a beautiful, sunny day and the perfect way to spend a Greek Australian summer,” President of the Greek Orthodox Community & Church of Canberra, John Loukadellis, tells The Greek Herald.

“Thank you to High Commissioner of Cyprus, Mrs Martha Mavrommatis and Ambassador Of Greece, His Excellency, Mr George Papacostas for attending today’s event – their support of our community events is greatly appreciated.

“On behalf of the Greek Orthodox Community & Church of Canberra committee, we wish everyone a very happy, prosperous and successful 2021. May God Bless us all.”

Northern Territory:

The Greek Orthodox Community of Northern Australia (GOCNA) treated its members and local parishioners to a special Blessing of the Waters ceremony on Sunday at the Darwin Waterfront.

Over ten swimmers attempted to retrieve the Holy Cross on the day, but Paraskos Koum was crowned the official winner for 2021.

Paraskos Koum was crowned the official winner for 2021. Photo: Georgia Politis Photography. Republished with permission.

President of the GOCNA, Nicholas Poniris, tells The Greek Herald that Paraskos was a second time winner, having won again two years ago.

Another exciting twist in this year’s celebrations, Mr Poniris adds, is that two restaurants along the waterfront opened early and were pre-booked so parishioners could enjoy light refreshments during the ceremony.

Blessing of the Waters ceremony held on Sunday at the Darwin Waterfront. Photo: Georgia Politis Photography. Republished with permission.

“Bella Fresh Pasta and Wharf One restaurants along the waterfront opened up their serving areas to serve our hungry and thirsty parishioners for the first time this year,” Mr Poniris says.

“It was a move well received by everyone and we look forward to working with the restaurants again next year.”

Tasmania:

The Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Parish of Hobart, Tasmania held its annual Blessing of the Waters this year at Long Beach Reserve, Sandy Bay.

A large crowd gathered, made up of a mix of Greek community members and parishioners from both Greek Orthodox Archdiocese churches in Hobart (St George the Great Martyr Greek Orthodox Church & Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church).  

A larger than usual group of 13 participants dived in for the cross this year from a nearby boat. Christos Klonaris was eventually named the official winner for 2021.

“Father Vasileios Verdos of Holy Trinity had the honour this year of throwing the Holy Cross into the sea, while Father Panagiotis Nikolakos of St George’s had ready the gift of a gold cross to present to blessed Christos Klonaris…” Greek Community of Tasmania’s organising committee member, Panagiota Papastamatis, tells The Greek Herald.

Christos himself tells The Greek Herald that ever since he was 10, he has been diving for the Holy Cross.

“Now at the age of 19, I have been blessed to have won the cross seven times. Throughout recent years, many new and young boys have begun to dive for the cross and I feel privileged to think that I have inspired many of them to dive, as I was inspired and looked up to those who dove before me,” Christos says.

“It is a blessing to go into the race, and it is an amazing experience for all as we continue to uphold our religious traditions.

“I want to continue to dive for as many years as I can, as for me being in those waters is a blessing, regardless of whether I retrieve the cross or not.”

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