Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blessing the Water ~ in Greece

Theophany ~ the ‘showing forth of God’ or the ‘manifestation of God’
We were lucky to have our recent time in Greece encompass holidays. While Christmas and New Year’s Day were both were celebrated, neither came close though to the festivities in our village of Agios Nikolaos for January 6th’s Feast of Theophany, or Epiphany.

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Agios Nickolas fishing port and main road
In the Christian world, Epiphany, 12 days after Christmas, pays tribute to the baptism of Christ when for the the first time the Holy Trinity appeared before mankind. Here the Orthodox Church celebrates the day, with Megas Agiamor, one of three types of Blessing of the Water that is done throughout the year by the church.

The season’s unusual cold spell that brought temperatures to all-time low’s and blanketed parts of the country with snow, had threatened to drive the religious celebration indoors. “If the weather is good enough it will likely take place at 10 in the morning,” we were told, ‘if it is bad it will take place in the church.”

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The procession from the church to the waterfront in Ag. Nikolaos
The previous day’s storm winds died and clouds disappeared during the night. We woke to a cold, but blue sky day. The processional from the church to the water’s edge, took place around 10:30.

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The processional - Jan. 6, 2015
The Priests were keepers of the Gospel and the Cross that would be blessed and tossed into the water a total of three times before the ceremony ended. The first two tosses, all part of the  service, seemed like practice runs to those of us less well-versed in the tradition.

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The crowd gathered around the priests and the young robed assistants took their place at the water’s edge.

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DSCF2963A blessing and a toss. . .while across the harbor, young men – members of the congregation readied themselves for the bone-chilling water . . .










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The Cross is tossed. . .the race was on. . .

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One of the three would be the first to reach the Cross.  That young man received a cash prize from the church. Then as tradition dictates, he added more to his ‘catch’ by taking it house-to-house and person-to-person blessing places and people who in turn made small donations – that he would get to keep.

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This year's cross-bearer conducted blessings of homes and people
While he went to work delivering blessings, the gathered villagers celebrated, greeting each other and sipping a bit of Greek brandy, Mextaca, which had been served in plastic cups to the assembled. Some of us, like my friend Sue and I, returned to the café to finish our coffee and tea we’d been sipping while waiting for the processional to appear – we’d dashed off to watch the ceremony like everyone else. Our cups were where we’d left them . . .no one worried whether we’d return to pay or not. . .that’s the way it is in this village.

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Thanks for stopping by – we always appreciate the time you spend with us.  Hope you’ll take a moment to comment, we love hearing from you! In our next post, we'll tell you how to get to this wonderful little village and our Stone House on the Hill.

This week’s link ups are with:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox  
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route  
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

47 comments:

  1. Hello Jackie and Joel

    The beautiful light on the special festival is also a blessing. How exciting to be in Agios Nikolaos during this time. I am familiar with the celebration of Little Christmas on Jan 6. We did celebrate it in Ireland and lit 12 candles and had a big dinner again on that evening. Tarpon Springs here in Florida has a large Greek community and we have attended the ceremony on Jan 6 on a few occasions. It is all so special

    Helen xx

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    1. It really is special to get to see these wonderful celebrations that take place in other locales and within other religious traditions. And being in a small village just seems to be the icing on the cake. Loved reading about Ireland and Florida, Helen. Keep in touch! Jackie xx

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  2. Hello Jackie and Joel,

    This all looks totally wonderful. So good that the weather brightened for this very special day and such a real sense of community. It must have been so interesting to see the events taking place, not least of which the brave swimmers in the icy waters.

    And how reassuring it is in these times of constant change to see this ritual taking place which has been done countless times over the years. It all gives a great sense of well being and permanence, you must have felt very privileged to be there.

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    1. You hit the nail on the head about seeing rituals that have been done countless times over the years and that you know will continue long after we are gone. It was a privilege to be a part of the village's coming together. It was beautiful. Thanks so much for your visit and comments. Jackie xx

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  3. Those young men must have been so cold! I love this type of celebration… not for the tourists, but for the community. We were in Nerja Spain last year during the Three Kings festivities in January and it was great seeing the local parade, and young kids scrambling for candy tossed by the “Kings”.

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    1. That really is what makes it special, isn't it Shelley? Knowing that this is a real celebration in a real town with real people and that it would happen whether we were there or not. I would have loved the celebration in Nerja. Thanks for stopping by!

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    1. Francesca, I love your comments! Where did this one go to?

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  5. Seems you fit right in to your new community.

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    1. We probably stand out like sore thumbs if the truth were known. But we sure do like 'our' village! Thanks for stopping by, Gaelyn

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  6. We love to join in an watch local celebrations whether they are religious or not. You learn a lot about the local culture this way. Sounds like it was an interesting way to pass some time.

    www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

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    1. It was most interesting and one of the things we love about travel: learning new customs and enjoying new celebrations! Thanks for visiting, Ruth.

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  7. The first of many new and exciting experiences in your new little town! I love the first photo with the boats - so completely charming!

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    1. If this is just the start of the year, I can hardly wait to see what other treats are in store for us, Amy. Thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment! Jackie

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  8. How lovely to know your cups will be safe and looked after until your return. :-) That must feel so good. :-)

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  9. Jackie, such lovely and lively photos of Epiphany, and you explained the religious significance so well of the various festivities and customs. How amazing it must have felt to be present at these New Year ceremonies of light, love, and hope, as a local, participating in all the action, from walking in the processional with the priest and the churchgoers to the water, to going back to your coffees in the cafe, your place settings untouched, and awaiting your return.

    Happy weekend, my friend!

    xo
    Poppy

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    1. Happy Weekend to you as well Poppy! It is traditions like this - not to mention the beauty of the country and the warmth of the people we met - that kept drawing us back to Greece. Can hardly wait to return later this spring! Hugs to you, my friend! Jackie xx

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  10. What a lovely tradition, Jackie! I got cold just watching those guys jumping into the water...haha . Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

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    1. Yes, I couldn't believe how cold that water must have been - the wind alone had me wrapping up against it, so I can't imagine jumping into the water as well! Love the linkup - thanks for hosting!

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  11. This seems like such an interesting village to call your second home. It's wonderful that you were able to celebrate the holidays there and experience their customs. I must be naive because I didn't realize it was ever cold in Greece. I just imagine it as endless summer weather.

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    1. Your comment made me laugh, Michele as I had always had that image of Greece as well. But when that wind blows and the rain/snow/hail starts falling, there is no doubt in your mind that they have distinct seasons just as we do! Thanks for stopping by~

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  12. What an inspiring time to visit, and the village looks charming. A perfect way to start the new year. Clearly one of those memorable travel moments.

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    1. It was a fabulously interesting way to start the new year! Thanks much for visiting today, Ursula!

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  13. Lovely pictures from a lovely Greece!
    Take care,
    Titti

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    1. Hi Titti, Thanks for stopping by. I visited your beautiful blog and will be making a return visit soon!

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  14. We love watching fiestas, religious celebrations and processions wherever we are and the Feast of Theophany looks like it was interesting as well as entertaining. Settling in to a Greek village and exploring the history and customs sounds like a great way to begin 2015!

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    1. Well, it certainly hasn't been a run-of-the-mill start to our New Year, Anita. We are looking forward to all the new customs and celebrations that we will likely encounter in Ag. Nickolas! Thanks for visiting~

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  15. What a wonderful time to visit, to be able to participate in the holidays is special. Thanks for sharing and your photos are gorgeous.. Have a happy week!

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    1. Eileen thanks so much for stopping by - glad you enjoyed the photos of this most interesting tradition! See you next week, if not before!

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  16. Hi Jackie, What a wonderful tradition and a charming village. I like that the tradition is kind of interactive - that young people can actually have a fun and interesting role in it. I like that the village is so laid-back and trusting - that you can leave you coffee and expect it to be there when you get back and that they the cafe trusted you would be back. It's so refreshing. Thanks for sharing this tradition and village and looking forward to hear more about it.

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    1. Thanks for the visit Marigold - we do love this little village already and have barely touched its surface. It is so wonderfully 'old school' - we received our first piece of mail at that same café (per an earlier post) and it was the news announced as we walked through the door. . ."You've got mail!" Cracked me up - but I loved it!! Hope you two will come visit one day and get a first-hand taste of the place.

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  17. Thanks for taking us vicariously to the village of Agios Nikolaos for the Feast of Theophany. I do wish I could have been there to actually experience it but this was second-best to that.

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    1. Carole, with your sense of exploration and adventure, you would have loved this! Thanks for stopping by - always appreciated!

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  18. I enjoyed seeing the tradition played out, so glad you were able to photograph it and share for Mosaic Monday Jackie.
    Surprising that your drinks were still on the table in the cafe, but a small town as you say is understanding.

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    1. It was a. beautiful tradition and I was lucky to get a spot from which to photograph as much of it as I did. The amazing thing about that coffee was that we didn't have correct change nor did the owner so they said to pay them whenever we came back! (We returned that afternoon only to find our friends had paid for the coffee and the owner horrified that we'd made a trip to pay for it).

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  19. Wonderful images of festival from Greece.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed them, Rajesh! Thanks for stopping by~

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  20. Very interesting! Yours is the best way to travel, not just taking some photos and running, but staying for a while, learning and understanding, and enjoying much more.
    Great pictures!

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    1. Yes, Sara, when we decided to buy a home there, we did so in part to be able to learn and understand the ways of this charming part of the world. Thanks much for the visit!

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  21. It`s seeing traditions like this come to life that adds to the joy of living in another culture. Thank you for sharing them with us. I can't imagine how cold the swimmers must have been. Brrrr.

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    1. I could barely stand to watch them plunge into the water Lorrie, but they did so with gusto and with that youthful spirit that probably kept them from freezing their tales off! Thanks for visiting - always love seeing a comment from you!

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  22. it's always fascinating to see local processions and festivals...and to return to find your coffee right where you left it!
    Happy travels

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    1. It is fun to be in a place long enough to experience them, Jill, that's for sure! Thanks for stopping by~

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  23. Ha, due to my lack of worldly travels I would have never thought that Greece ever got cold, Jackie! :)

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    1. It is the tourism depth. Mike. They only show warm, sun-drenched beaches. Mainland Greece, especially northern Greece got hit hard while we were there and I saw several posting photos of snow in Santorini. We should have packed our long-johns as we've used them at Easter when we've visited, so I don't know why I left them home this trip other than lack of space!

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  24. Very interesting article.Wonderful images of festival from Greece.Thanks much for write us.

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