THE HOLY EPIPHANY.
The Epiphany is one of the most important christian celebrations which takes place with very little variation around Greece. The blessing of Water happens on the day before the Epiphany in churches and is called ”First Blessing” or ”Photisi”. The priest goes around the houses of the parish and uses holy water, a cross and a twig of basil to bless them. People use the holy water from ”First Blessing” to spray their estates, their olive trees and vines, so that plenty of harvest will be produced. The ”Great Blessing” takes place on the Epiphany day with the plunge of the holly cross in the sea. The ceremony of the dive of the holly cross is carried out with every formality and magnificence. In the large cities, the procession consists of military sections, music bands, the Bishop followed by the clergy, politicians and representatives of the civil and local authorities and many believers which march from the church towards the sea where the dive of the holy cross will be performed. The small boats full of flags form a circle around the spot where the dive is going to happen. Seasoned swimmers dive into the sea ignoring the cold to catch the cross. Whoever catches the cross first is considered blessed with good luck and is entrusted to carry the cross around the houses and receive tips. The Christians believe that after the Blessing of the Water, the sea water has therapeutic powers and they have a swim at sea or take the sea water at home and bathe. It is also believed that whoever has epidermic wounds can be healed with this holy water.