Greece celebrates Epiphany with traditional ‘blessing of the waters’ ceremonies

Greece celebrated the religious holiday of Epiphany on Saturday with the traditional “blessing of the waters” ceremony at the country’s countless ports, harbours, lakes and reservoirs, with the nation’s political leadership also on hand at Church masses and at the water’s side.

The most prominent service was again celebrated at the port of Piraeus’ Metropolitan Cathedral and seafront, with Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos officiating at the service, attended by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, who represented the Government, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, former premier Costas Simitis and dozens of other government officials, MPs and local government office-holders. Most political leaders on hand expressed their best wishes for 2007.

On his part, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis attended Epiphany services near his home in the east Attica coastal town of Rafina, where he expressed his best seasons for the New Year, while emphasising the need for close ties between parents and children.

His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos officiated at a similar service in Constantinople [today’s Istanbul], the venerable Patriarchate’s seat.

Epiphany celebrations in Greece and Cyprus

Epiphany is a day full of symbolisms and traditions, during which our Church celebrates Jesus’ baptism in Jordan River by John the Baptist.

According to our popular tradition this is the day that the Elves, who have caused much discomfort to people during the holidays, leave the Earth. The celebration of this day has a particular protocol. In Athens, Mayor Bakoyannis will be present at the ceremony for the benediction of waters which will take place on Thursday at 10.30 in Dexameni in Kolonaki. After that, at 11.30, the Mayor will attend the ceremony taking place at the swimming pool of the National Gymnastics Club.

The feast of Epiphany is one of the oldest celebrations of the Christian Church. It was established in the 2nd century and it refers to the revelation of the Holy Trinity during Christ’s baptism. That is when the Holy Spirit appeared as a dove and sat on Jesus, while from above the voice of God was indicating Him as His beloved Son and His Chosen on Earth. It was established to be celebrated on January 6th, probably in order to coincide with the idolatrous celebrations of the early Christian years and to replace them.

During the first two centuries, the Christians also celebrated the Birth of Christ on the same day, but since the mid 4th century, when Pope Julius set December 25th as Christmas day, the feast of Epiphany has been celebrated separately. The Orthodox Church performs on this day the benediction of waters in the sea, in lakes, in rivers, even in water tanks. The name “Illuminations” (“Fota” in Greek), which we commonly use, has been established because on the day before the Epiphany the Church used to baptize the catechumen.

For all Greeks this day is connected with the casting of the Cross in the sea and with the effort of the bold ones to retrieve it from the – frozen this time of year – waters. The joy of the person who manages to get to the Cross first is a great one and the blessings of the priest accompany him for the whole year. On the day before the Epiphany, the neighborhood priest passes by the houses of his cogeneration in order to perform the customary blessing. It is the day that … the Elves fear the most – if we want to turn from our religious tradition to our folk one.

For more than two weeks the Elves are on Earth and they bother people with the capers they are pulling. During all these days they try to hurt people, but they do not succeed – clumsy as they are. The priest’s appearance in the houses on Epiphany day gives them the… finishing stroke and they disappear for once more in the bowels of the Earth. This is how the circle of tradition restarts until next Christmas when they will climb up again…

Greeks using SMS Festive Holiday wishes

Text messages were popular among well-wishers again this year with 82.6 million messages sent on the Vodafone network from December 24 to January 1.

During the same period, there were 45.9 million text messages sent by TIM Hellas customers, a rise of 17 percent from last year.

On New Year’s Day, 15.2 million messages were sent by Cosmote users, an annual increase of 13 percent.

That’s what I call Communication! 🙂

Greeks launch 2007 in style

Posted On January 1, 2007

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Greeks welcomed the start of the new year in all-night celebrations around the country, including a showcase fiesta in Athens with music, dance and fireworks in three central squares.

The events arranged by the outgoing mayor of Athens, Theodoros Behrakis, also marked handover of the city to his successor, Nikitas Kaklamanis.

“Together we are ushering in 2007, and together we will work to make Athens brighter, more beautiful and more humane, so that it becomes Europe’s perpetual cultural capital,” Kaklamanis told cheering crowds.

On Monday, President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received the country’s political, religious, military, judicial and law enforcement leaders, who paid a customary visit to the head of state for an exchange of good wishes.

Among Papoulias’ guests were the Prime Minister, Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, opposition party leaders, ministers, and parliamentary deputies.

Earlier in the day, the Archbishop led a traditional New Year’s Day service at Athens Cathedral.

Greece > President Karolos Papoulias issues New Year’s message

Posted On December 31, 2006

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President Karolos Papoulias issued a New Year’s message over the weekend, expressing the wish that 2007 will be a year of progress and one of peace and justice for Greeks all over the world.

“Today, in some homes, I hope in most, joy prevails for the change of year. However, my thoughts turn primarily to those homes where scepticism is dominant because problems leave no space for celebrations,” he said.

President Papoulias went on to say that “I believe that for our country, that has succeeded in consolidating a stable democracy following many difficult periods, every year will be and should be better than the previous one.”

Referring to people in distress, President Papoulias said “the focus of our efforts must be people in need, those who are deprived, those who hear us politicians speaking of prosperity and wonder what is going on. On such days, loneliness and physical or financial weakness, when they exist, become really intolerable.”

Lastly, President Papoulias stressed that “we are all in need of hope, because if we believe that there is no hope there will be none.”

Baby Jesus doll stolen from Nativity scene

The doll symbolizing the Baby Jesus has been stolen by suspected anarchists from the manger in Thessaloniki’s main square, police said yesterday.

A previously unknown group calling itself “The Mothers of Aristotelous Square” claimed it was behind the stunt and demanded the release of two activists arrested earlier this year when the European Social Forum was held in Athens.

This is the third time since 1993 that the Baby Jesus has been stolen from the Nativity scene, which is set up next to the Christmas tree in Aristotelous Square.

“No matter how many times they take the doll… nothing can remove Christ and the Christmas spirit from our hearts,” said Thessaloniki’s Deputy Mayor Vassilis Gakis.

Police said that the doll was stolen while the security guard was on a break.

Festive fun for Greek euro-children

Once again the City of Athens turned on entertainment for young and old alike in Syntagma Square this Christmas.

As the weather is fine, the City of Athens has set up a free snow slide in the National Gardens to make up for the snow that didn’t fall and the snowmen that weren’t built this year. In Syntagma Square, the antique carousel with its horses whirling round and the music playing pleases both young and old. And there are the little stores of Sugar Town with all sorts of sweets, except that those have to be paid for, as do photographs with the decorated tree taken by Santas wielding cameras. The balloons, the sweets and a spin on the carousel cost euros, but a look in the decorated windows is still free.

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