Epiphany celebrated in Greece after 2 years of restrictions

Jan 5, 2023, 3:43 PM | Updated: Jan 6, 2023, 5:55 am
A pilgrim kiss the cross during an Epiphany ceremony to bless the sea, at a suburb in Piraeus port,...

A pilgrim kiss the cross during an Epiphany ceremony to bless the sea, at a suburb in Piraeus port, near Athens, Greece, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. By tradition, a crucifix is cast into the waters of a lake or river, and it is believed that the person who retrieves it will be freed from evil spirits and will be healthy through the year. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

              Pilgrims try to catch the cross after it was thrown by an Orthodox priest into the water, during an Epiphany ceremony to bless the sea, at a suburb in Piraeus port, near Athens, Greece, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. By tradition, a crucifix is cast into the waters of a lake or river, and it is believed that the person who retrieves it will be freed from evil spirits and will be healthy through the year. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
            
              A pilgrims holds the cross after it was thrown by an Orthodox priest into the water, during an Epiphany ceremony to bless the sea, at a suburb in Piraeus port, near Athens, Greece, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. By tradition, a crucifix is cast into the waters of a lake or river, and it is believed that the person who retrieves it will be freed from evil spirits and will be healthy through the year. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
            
              A pilgrim holds the cross after it was thrown by an Orthodox priest into the water, during an Epiphany ceremony to bless the sea, at a suburb in Piraeus port, near Athens, Greece, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. By tradition, a crucifix is cast into the waters of a lake or river, and it is believed that the person who retrieves it will be freed from evil spirits and will be healthy through the year. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
            
              Pilgrims try to catch the cross after it was thrown by an Orthodox priest into the water, during an Epiphany ceremony to bless the sea, at a suburb in Piraeus port, near Athens, Greece, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. By tradition, a crucifix is cast into the waters of a lake or river, and it is believed that the person who retrieves it will be freed from evil spirits and will be healthy through the year. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
            
              A pilgrim kisses the cross during an Epiphany ceremony to bless the sea, at a suburb in Piraeus port, near Athens, Greece, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. By tradition, a crucifix is cast into the waters of a lake or river, and it is believed that the person who retrieves it will be freed from evil spirits and will be healthy through the year. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
            
              A pilgrim kiss the cross during an Epiphany ceremony to bless the sea, at a suburb in Piraeus port, near Athens, Greece, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. By tradition, a crucifix is cast into the waters of a lake or river, and it is believed that the person who retrieves it will be freed from evil spirits and will be healthy through the year. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greeks celebrated Epiphany Friday with blessing of the waters ceremonies across the country.

The holiday is known as Three Kings Day for Catholics and the Baptism of Christ for the Orthodox. Greece is predominantly Orthodox.

Unseasonably warm weather helped bring out the crowds for the outdoor celebrations, with swimmers competing against each other to grasp a floating cross thrown by priests into seas, rivers or lakes. Retrieving the cross is believed to confer special blessing upon the person who retrieves it.

In 2021, celebrations had been severely affected by the restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic; last year, celebrations had been canceled or scaled back in many parts of Greece as the country struggled with a huge surge in COVID-19 infections.

In the port of Piraeus, a cross is traditionally thrown three times, to accommodate the throngs of swimmers.

In Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, the man who retrieved the cross told media that he had been trying to do so since 1996, missing only two occasions.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Epiphany celebrated in Greece after 2 years of restrictions