Dave and Gerry's Alonissos Island Information Site

Epiphany on Alonissos - 6th January 2007

Click on the links in the text to view pictures of the Epiphany ceremony.

Epiphany in Greece is known as Theofania or the Enlightenment. The first sanctification takes place in church on the eve of the holiday, which this year was on a Friday.  We were sat having a drink in Patitiri when the priest came along the harbour front holding a silver container with a handle in one hand and basil leaves backed with a cross in the other.  He went into each of the open premises and blessed them by sprinkling holy water with the basil leaves and whenever he met a child he anointed them with the basil leaves dipped in holy water and offered them the cross to kiss.

The main santification of the Epiphany took place in Patitiri on Saturday 6th January, which is a public holiday in Greece.  A service is held at the church of Agia Paraskevi in the morning and more of that next year when we have found our feet a bit.  We got down to the harbour around 9.30am because we were told that things started happening around 10am.  On the jetty some tables were set up ready for the ceremony.  In reality the church turned out around 10.30am and loads of people came down Ikion Dolopon amidst a throng of cars.  The waters edge filled up with people as the priest appeared behind the tables.  Part of the ceremony involves the blessing of the waters and local youths jump into the harbour to retrieve a cross.  As there are no steps up from that area of the jetty the coastguard dinghy was in the vicinity to pick up the brave souls who took up the challenge.

The priest performed the ceremony on the harbour front and towards the end of the ceremony took a metal cross and unravelling all the attached line and threw it into the water.  He then reeled the cross back in.  As he was about to throw it in for a second time a young guy came forward from the crowd behind wearing only a pair of long swimming trunks.  As the priest threw the cross into the water and retreived the cross for the second time another youngster came forward wearing jeans and tee shirt.  When the cross went into the water for the third time three youths dived into the water for the honour of bringing the cross back and enjoying good luck and health for the entire year.  The coast guard dinghy started to blow its horn continuously and the youth in the swimming trunks was the first to grab hold of the cross.  All three were rescued by the coast guard dinghy and hauled soaking wet into the boat to be taken to the nearest steps up to the harbour.  The pictures here show the splash as the three boys hit the water and the winner with his prize.

When the cross had been retieved most of the non Greek Orthodox in the attendent throng headed to the nearest bar for a drink or headed home.  to one side of the table in front of the priest a queue formed which is unusual in Greece.  A sort of communion service took place where people came to the priest who touched them on the head with the basil leaves after which they took a slice of bread to eat from a panier and then had some holy water put into a container which we presume they took home.  The containers ranged from polystyrene cups and plastic water bottles to glass jars.

After the ceremony had finished a flying dolphin came into the harbour and we noticed unusually that it was flying a number of flags.  Also in the harbour was a large fishing boat that was bedecked with buntings of small flags.


Tables Set Up on the Port

Priest Ready to Start the Service

Coastguard Dinghy

Ceremony on the Harbour Front

Three Boys Hitting the Water and the Winner with his Prize

Flying Dolpin Flying a Number of Flags

Fishing Boat Bedecked with Buntings of Small Flags
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