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The history behind Tarpon Springs' Epiphany celebration

While the 2021 celebration will look different because of the coronavirus pandemic, 18-year-old boys will still have the chance for the cross dive.

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. — The 115th annual Epiphany celebration will happen in Tarpon Spring on Jan. 6, 2021. But, some major changes are coming to the event because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Up until this year, sometimes as many as 20,000 people head to Tarpon Springs to celebrate "Epiphany." For Christians, especially Greek Orthodox Christians, Epiphany is a very important day, celebrating Jesus's baptism by John the Baptist.

Since Tarpon Springs has more Greeks per capita than any other American city, it's no wonder they go all out.

The Epiphany festivities date back to 1906 in Tarpon Springs.

In a normal year, the day would begin with a special mass at the Saint Nicholas Cathedral, followed by a procession down to Spring Bayou, for the "cross dive". The cross dive is seen as a right of passage for young men in the town.  

Boats are tied in a semi-circle around a platform in the water, with normally, about 50 teenage boys. The boys onboard are usually between the ages of 16 and 18.

This year, because of health concerns, only 18-year-old's will participate. The Archbishop blesses the boys and a cross, then throws the cross into the water. The boys dive from the boats and try to find the cross.

The boy who comes up with it gets a special blessing from the Archbishop, his name engraved on a statue outside the cathedral and good luck for the next year. Not to mention, bragging rights.

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