INTRO: Today, an estimated forty thousand people gathered to witness the ninety-ninth Epiphany celebration, in Tarpon Springs. The day began with a liturgy at the St. Nicolas cathedral, followed by a procession down Tarpon Springs streets towards Spring Bayou, where a heavily weighted wooden cross was tossed into the chilly waters. A group of Greek Orthodox youth waited in boats, awaiting passage into manhood. WMNF’s Mark Antokas files this report.

SCRIPT: Forty-five Greek Orthodox boys of all shapes and sizes, religious intents and motivations, assembled today to do what their fathers and uncles and cousins have for generations. Retrieve the cross. The Epiphany celebration marks the first baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan, over two thousand years ago. The Tarpon Springs Celebration is the largest in the world, except for in Greece. It was the Greeks, under King Constantine, who brought Christianity to the world, and even now, it is very difficult to separate the religion from the Greek culture. WMNF spoke with participants at this year’s celebration, in Tarpon Springs. Minas Vigas is one who would dive for the cross. Roll Tape:

Maria Pappas has a son, Peter Papademetriou who is 18, and three younger daughters. Pappas admits that the Tarpon Springs community can be a bit sexist in not allowing young girls to participate in the dive. Roll Tape:

Amy Salakis says she’s not interested in competing with the boys. Roll Tape:

Catherine Velardoccia was holding a white dove in her hands. The dove bearer. WMNF asked her about her duties…. Roll Tape

SOCK OUT: For months the male youth of St. Nicholas church in Tarpon Springs have studied hard and worked towards today’s event. The Greek Orthodox religion is the only religion to celebrate the baptism of Christ in this manner. Next year will mark the one hundredth anniversary of the first Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs. This is Mark Antokas, for WMNF radio news.

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