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TARPON SPRINGS, FL – In a week during which much of the United States has been covered by a cold, snowy blanket, temperatures in the mid-50s seem quite balmy by comparison, and even a mid-afternoon cross dive is bearable.

Particularly for 18 year-old Konstantinos Pseftelis, who on January 6 retrieved the cross during the 109th Epiphany celebration in his native Florida city of Tarpon Springs.

The St. Petersburg College student retrieved the cross with ease – about twelve seconds after Archbishop Demetrios, who presided over the celebration, tossed it into the Spring Bayou, the site of Tarpon’s annual celebration.

“I jumped in, I saw it floating,” Pseftelis told Bay News 9.

The previous day marked the traditional blessing of the waters, conducted by Metropolitan Nikitas of the Dardanelles, who, like Pseftelis is also a Tarpon native and who as a teenager also retrieved the cross in the 1974 dive.

“I won’t say, ‘Good luck,’ because I’m a clergyman and I don’t believe in luck,” Nikitas told the divers, the Tampa Tribune reported, “but may God bless you all.”

Nikitas (Lulias) and his brother, John, are set to be honored over the weekend “at a special event, for all of their contributions to the community,” Tina Bucuvalas, Curator of Arts and Historical Resources for the City of Tarpon Springs, told TNH.

Chris Alahouzos, who served for six years as a Commissioner and Vice Mayor of Tarpon Springs and has announced his candidacy for mayor, told TNH that it is particularly great that people from all around the United States flock to Tarpon for the annual event, “as it gives us a chance to share our Greek history and culture” with the rest of America. The Epiphany celebration began with a Liturgy at the St. Nicholas Cathedral, a short walk from the Bayou. This is the first year there for Fr. Anastasios Gounaris, who came to Tarpon Springs from New York this past June.

BITTERSWEET

There was some solemnity amid the jubilation, as there was a moment of silence before the dive in memory of Tarpon Springs Police Officer Charles “Charlie K” Kondek, who was killed in the line of duty just a couple of blocks from the Bayou a few weeks ago – the Sunday before Christmas (“Tragedy Strikes Tarpon Springs, Policeman Killed,” Dec. 27). The Cathedral presented the Tarpon Springs Police Department with a plaque in Kondek’s honor.

EPISCOPAL BEGINNINGS

It was in 1905 when Greek immigrants, mostly from Kalymnos and the surrounding Dodecanese islands, and also from Hydra, Spetses, and Aegina, settled in Tarpon Springs and the industry boomed, under John Cocoris, who relocated from New York City to revolutionize sponge diving there. The following year marked the beginning of the Epiphany celebration, but it was a year before the St. Nicholas parish was established. The Greeks of Tarpon had their celebration, but through an Episcopal Church. Rev. Dr. Thomas J. Lacey, Director of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Brooklyn, was invited to attend, and he did. He was so impressed with the entire experience that he returned 34 of the ensuing 36 years.

FOR THE YOUTH

Alahouzos told TNH that the cross dive is particularly good for Tarpon’s young Greek-Americans, as it helps to connect them with the Greek Orthodox faith and church. The divers become interested in the competition, but along the way they learn about the deeper significance – the baptism of Jesus Christ, he said. And he ought to know. “When I was young I dove for the cross three times. I never got it, but I tried,”

The post Winter Epiphany on Sun-Soaked Spring Bayou in Tarpon Springs, FL appeared first on The National Herald.

Source: The National Herald
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