Epiphany Divers in Tarpon Springs
Today is the high point of the Christmas season here in Tarpon Springs. For the Greek-American community here, and especially its boldest young men, the holidays are not over until the annual dive for the cross January 6. Tarpon’s been home to proud Greek sponge divers for a century; every year they proclaim that heritage in this cold and watery ritual. In the Greek Orthodox church, Epiphany celebrates Jesus’s baptism in the River Jordan. The immersion has a special resonance in a community of divers and a big fishing fleet, so folks here have performed the blessing of the waters and the diving for 105 years.
In a flourish of Old World pageantry, the biggest outside of Greece, the Greek Orthodox archbishop and primate of North America, priests, parishioners, musicians, children and a dove-bearer parade down to Spring Bayou after the morning church service. Sometime after noon the crew of some 75 boys in blue and white T-shirts are rowed out to the center of the bayou in small boats.
The doves are released, a large white cross is tossed into the depths and the boys leap from the boats.
2008 Boutari Santorini, Assyrtico (92W&S)
An impossible task, yet within minutes one victorious arm emerges holding the cross followed by the whole breathless, soaking teenager. His fellows carry him dripping wet back to the church for a blessing, and a huge Greek festival follows.
It’s something to see and as many as 50,000, Greek and non-Greek, make the pilgrimage every year, and millions watch on television.
If you come, and you should at least once, come early. Stop by B-21 aftewards, for we have an inventory of 40 Greek wines from the traditional to the best modern varietals from Naoussa, Achaia, Santorni, Samos, Makedonia and more. There is much more to Greek wine today than retsina and roditys, not that there needs to be. Opa!