The sixth of January; Christmas has officially come to an end and it is Epiphany, called “Ton Foton” in Greece.
“The Festival of Light”
This Feast Day is known as “Theophania” meaning; a vision of God, or, “Christ shining through”.
Epiphany is one of the most meaningful celebrations for The Greek Orthodox Church, being third only, in rank, behind Easter and Pentecost.
6th of January is also known as “Three Kings Day”, in the Western Church, a celebration of “The Three Magi” visiting baby Jesus.
We’ve all heard the Christmas Carol “We Three Kings”, which was dedicated to this event.
In The Greek Orthodox Church, Epiphany, or, “Ton Foton” (The shining forth), is celebrated as the announcement of Jesus Christ as The Messiah and as second person of The Trinity, at his baptism, by John the Baptist, in the River Jordan.
Another cause for celebration, in The Greek Orthodox Church, at Epiphany, is the fact that Christ’s baptism, is only one of two occasions, when all three persons of The Trinity, showed themselves, at the same time, to mankind:
God The Father, speaking from the clouds, God The Son, being baptized in The River Jordan, and, God The Holy Spirit, revealed as a dove, descending from heaven.
(The other occasion was the “Transfiguration” on Mount Tabor)
Greek Epiphany Traditions
At Epiphany, The Greek Orthodox Church performs;
“The Great Blessing of the Waters”
This ceremony, performed twice, once, on The Eve of Epiphany (A day of fasting), performed in the church, and again on the actual day, outdoors, with priests blessing the sea, rivers and lakes etc.
A priest, surrounded by brave young men and boys, and in recent years girls and young women, throws a cross into the sea, either from the harbour, or from a boat at sea.
The minute the cross leaves the priest’s hand, is the signal for them to dive into the freezing water, to catch it.
The lucky one, who finds and returns the cross, is blessed by the priest;
I should think that the only thing on the divers mind at this point, is a warm towel and something hot to drink!
As the cross is victoriously brought back, the priest releases white doves, as a symbol of The Holy Spirit.
This tradition is carried out to remember and to celebrate, the Baptism of Christ, and to bless the waters.
An awful lot of blessing is carried out on Epiphany.
Fishermen, have their boats lined up, waiting for them to be blessed by the priest, once the daring divers are out of the way.
On the Eve of Epiphany, the priest has made his house calls, with a bunch of fresh Basil, dipped into a bowl of holy water and shaken around every room, he blesses the house and, anyone in his path, will have the basil shaken at them too!
Anything and everything is blessed!
This is also the day that the naughty little imps, Kallikantzaroi, who came out for the twelve days of Christmas, being afraid of holy water, scuttle back to their underground homes.
Another quaint custom is that of collecting two pebbles from the beach.
They must be wet with sea water, taken home, without drying, and placed in the center of the house, as the pebbles dry, the evaporating sea water, which is considered blessed on this day, will bless your house.
Last but not least, and probably the most looked forward to, as the day before Epiphany was a strict day of fasting, is the custom, of on arriving home after the celebrations, tucking into different types of delicious fried pastries.
These are traditionally; dipples, ribbons of fried pastry, covered in honey, or loukoumades, small round doughnuts, again covered in honey, that have been especially prepared, for today.
Water blessed at Epiphany, or, Theophania, the “Theophany Water” is believed to different to Holy Water, in that its very nature has been changed and has become pure, honourable and praiseworthy.
Epiphany/Theophania, as you may have guessed, is a traditional day in The Greek Orthodox Church, for baptisms.
Epiphany/Theophania, is followed by an eight day “Afterfeast”, meaning, all religious fasting is forgotten for these eight days, which is just as well, as it won’t be long now, until fasting for Lent begins, forty days before Easter.
The sixth of January, Theophania, in The Greek Orthodox Church, is the name day of:
Fotis, Fotini, Fanis, Fani, Iordanis (Jordan) Ourania, Peristera, Theofanis, Theofania and Theopoula.