Today, Roger pointed to the photo in The Washington Post of a Greek youth in Piraeus (near Athens) holding aloft the cross he had retrieved from the very cold waters. This is a tradition of the Greek Orthodox Church (Eastern Orthodox) on January 6, or Epiphany Day (also called the Theophany or Fota). The symbolism relates to the celebration of Jesus’ baptism (one of the three events commemorated on this day).
Young Greek men dive for a cross, and the first to bring it out of the frigid waters is reputed to be blessed with good health or, depending on the tradition, “freed from evil spirits” throughout the year.
Outside of Greece, one of the biggest celebrations of this event is held in Tarpon Springs Florida. This year, the young man who “won” the cross, 18-year-old Kosta Pseftelis, was diving for his third (and last eligible) time. The event draws 10,000 spectators. As the dive has continued to grow in Tarpon Springs, church officials, concerned that “the dive had become more of a sporting event than an opportunity for the young men to reflect spiritually and biblically on the cross,” began requiring the young men to attend classes focused on the development of their religious lives.