The Orthodox Christian celebrates Epiphany on January 6th of each year, in remembrance of the baptism of our Jesus Christ in the water of Jordan River 2000 years ago. In the old country, Jesus Christ baptismal day was celebrated with spiritual emotion and long procession. Following tradition, the Greek community established that January the 6th of each year will be celebrated with the sanctification of the waters and the immersion of the cross in the Spring bayou on “Cross Day” or “Epiphany”. The first observance of Epiphany in Tarpon Springs was celebrated by the first settlers in 1903, and was held in a Episcopal church which was attended by few people. In the next few years, as the news spread throughout USA and Canada, devoted Greeks and Americans made the pilgrimage from all over the nation and Canada, in order to take part in the celebration of Epiphany and its three-day festivities.
Nowhere in America is the feast of Epiphany celebrated as it is in Tarpon Springs where the ceremonies are identical to those taken place in and around Greece. The whole city is covered with Christian banners representing the baptism of Christ, Easter, and other Christian scenes. The whole town comes alive with activity not only down town, but also the waterfront, where the entire sponge fleet and the other boats anchored in line. Most of them are painted in white and blue symbolic of Greece, and in their mast, they fly the Greek and American flags. Moreover, these flags are also placed on the light poles of the streets in the city.
History of Epiphany in Tarpon Springs
The first observance of Epiphany in Tarpon Springs was celebrated by the first settlers in 1903, and was held in an Episcopal church which was attended by few people. In the next years, as the news spread throughout USA and Canada, devoted Greeks and Americans made the pilgrimage from all over North America, in order to take part in the celebration of Epiphany and its three-day festivities. One of its most faithful visitors was the late Rev. Dr. Thomas J. Lacey, Director of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Brooklyn, New York. He came in 1906 at the insistence of Bishop W. Crane Gray, from Orlando. Since Bishop Gray was unable to attend, Dr. Lacey represented him. Rev. Lacey was so impressed with the Greek religious ceremony, that he had made it an annual pilgrimage to attend the Epiphany. He became one of the most familiar religious figures noted at the celebration. He attended for 20 consecutive years and became an honored member of the Greek community. Furthermore, the Greek government decorated him with the “Order of King George” for his work among the Greek people. Rev. Lacey participated in the celebration by reading the Gospel in English and offered prayers for the president and the United Stated Forces.