By Mary Sinanidis and Christine Filippidis.
Despite the mixed weather over the Epiphany weekend, Victoria’s Greek community attended Blessing of the Waters ceremonies at both Frankston on Saturday, January 6 and at Port Melbourne on Sunday, January 7 to mark the religious occasion.
The Greek Herald was on the ground at both events, capturing the moment as young men and women dived for the Holy Cross.
Blessed and soaked: A dive in the rain for Port Melbourne’s Theofania
Words and photos by Mary Sinanidis.
Around 900 people came to Port Melbourne for Theofania on Sunday, January 7 despite the heavens hurling buckets of rain.
For those present, it was business as usual, with dance school instructor Sotiris Sotiriou offering this year’s slightly soggy calendars to passers-by, just as he does every year. Gyros slowly sizzled on an outdoor rotisserie, unhindered by thick spits of rain.
“It makes it succulent,” the chefs assured.
The Florina Aristotelis dancers disappointedly looked to the skies hoping for divine intervention so they could perform.
At the registration desk, female participation was permitted this year, in contrast to last year. No women had chosen to sign up, however.
The 27 men who registered for the dive, shivered in the rain, each hoping that it would be their year to shine until the cross was taken from their clutches by 20-year-old Cosmo Nicolaidis.
“My dad has wanted me to do this for a couple of years now, and I thought I’d give it a go,” the 2nd year RMIT construction management student told The Greek Herald. “It was a bit cold outside, but warm in the water. It really gets hard swimming in there and a lot of the others were close to me, so I had to push harder.”
Tradition has it that he will be blessed for the year ahead, and all the Middle Park resident hopes for is “overall health for his family.”
Cosmo’s proud dad, Peter, vicariously felt the victory through his son, never having taken part in a dive himself.
The same could not be said for Kostas Avdalis, who came with his sons Dimitris and Vasilis.
“We didn’t think twice about diving in, even when we saw the rain. We’re going to get wet anyway,” Kostas said.
Geologist Dimitris said that should he catch it, “that’s it.” He’ll be done.
Panagiotis Tasias had won when he was 16 but that was more than 15 years ago.
“Just to jump in is a blessing, and I dive every year,” he said.
Synesios Frangos jumped in last year and felt “blessed.”
“I like to honour the traditions of my ancestors and feel obliged to do it now that I’ve gained the confidence,” Synesios said.
Catching the cross is an elusive dream for property valuer Adrian Pallis.
“My first dive was at 44, and have continued for the last 10 years. I always come close to getting the cross,” said the Heidelberg resident, who admitted that the only other time he goes to church is during Easter.
The same applies to holiday-maker Evan Chatzis from Athens.
“I’m not religious but came here for the company and thought to jump. I’ve never done it in Greece,” he said.
With chattering teeth and covered in goose pimples, carpenter James Sepsakos said he would dive for the “spiritual experience.”
Steven Psaradellis listened to his wife and wore his lycra top.
“Each year, my wife gives me a top, but this year I listened and actually wore it when I saw the rain, and I also wanted to hide a little extra weight that I’ve gained,” he joked.
Nina Taylor MP told The Greek Herald she regularly comes to the pier for Theofania.
“It’s an achievement if you can get the cross and you have it for life,” she said, adding that she’d encourage more women to dive. “I say, ‘Go for it!’”
Heeding Nina’s advice, poet Andrea Demetriou remembers the time she dived for the cross in Greece 12 years ago.
“My friends told me to ‘stop wallowing in prolonged adolescence’, but when the priest saw me, he said, ‘make way for the little girl to come through’,” she said, adding that the men were aggressive and pushing her out of the way.
“You need to be ready for battle,” she said.
Blessing of the Waters ceremony returns to Frankston’s Promenade in Melbourne
Words and photos by Christine Filippidis.
The long-awaited sunshine returned to Melbourne’s skies on Saturday, January 6 lighting up the day of Epiphany, or as many Greek Orthodox Christians call it – Theophania, the Blessing of the Waters.
Frankston’s Promenade in Melbourne, Victoria welcomed hundreds who came to witness the Blessing of the Waters ceremony – symbolising the baptism of Jesus Christ.
The pier is the same one that saw the arrival of many Greek migrants to Australia, decades before.
The service was presided by Archbishop Makarios of Australia, who shared his words of wisdom with the people for the new year, reminding everyone that the goal of Christians must be to “put Christ at the centre of your life.”
Just before 1.30pm, the most physical event of the day took off as roughly 30 people dove off the historic pier to retrieve the Holy Cross thrown into the water below.
Young Greek man Kosta Kopsaftis came out victorious, dripping wet, with a beaming smile on his face.
As the Epiphany tradition famously suggests, the one who carries the cross back from the water will be lucky for the year ahead. As a Greek Orthodox Christian, that is exactly what Kosta seemed to believe, expressing his gratitude to all who attended.
“Thank you, thank you,” Kosta said, as he passed through crowds of avid watchers.
The efforts of those who also swam alongside young Kosta were not lost, however, with each swimmer emerging from the blue-green waters sharing embraces.
Many dignitaries were also in attendance including Bishop Evmenios of Kerasounta, the Greek Consul General of Melbourne, Emmanuel Kakavelakis, Father Themi Adamopoulos, and Father Doukas Georgalas of Frankston’s ‘Epiphany’ Greek Orthodox Church, further highlighting the significance of the event.
Theophania continues to transcend geographical and historical bounds, with its ever-growing community presence and celebration continuing to extend to younger generations and locations around the world.