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16-year-old teen retrieves a cross at the 117th annual Epiphany celebration



Tarpon Springs Frida

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (WFLA) – Thousands of people gathered in Tarpon Springs Friday for the 117th annual Epiphany, the largest Epiphany celebration in the Western Hemisphere.

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Jesus Christ

Epiphany, also called Theophany (meaning “appearance of God”), is a celebration commemorating the baptism of Jesus Christ. The period between Christmas and Epiphany is called the Dodecameron, or the Twelve Days. The term “Twelve Days of Christmas” is derived from this period.

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Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church

The all-day event began with a religious service at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, followed by a procession that led to Spring Bayou.

This year, 68 young people lined up in the swamp and waited for a cross to be thrown into the water.

George Stamas

It was a moment to remember when 16-year-old George Stamas took up the swamp cross and blessed him for the year.

“There are 67 kids diving and I am just one person,” he said. “So I’m very blessed.”

Stamas said that he was chosen by God. “Nothing was luck, all blessings,” he said.

Stamas’s mother and father said they had a feeling he would get the cross back.

Brooke Stamas

“To see him today and all the children together and the camaraderie and how beautiful the ceremony is,” said George’s mother, Brooke Stamas. “It means something profound to us when you are Greek Orthodox.”

George said: “I went under and thought I should come back up because I couldn’t breathe, but I kept going and I saw it glow.”

It is not the first time that someone in his family has recovered the cross.

“Unbelievable,” said George. “One person in the family who gets it is good enough, but two is unbelievable.”

Christian Chrysakis

His cousin, Christian Chrysakis, retrieved the cross in 2018 and said it is a memory they both now share.

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“It’s an indescribable feeling and now he knows it and we can talk about it all the time,” Chrysakis said.

It doesn’t end there, his great-grandfather recovered the cross in 1938.

Chris Stamas

George’s father, Chris Stamas, says it’s an honor he’s proud to have bestowed on his son.

“I’m so happy for him that I’m proud of him,” Chris said. “I know he will carry the cross well and he will be a good steward of our church and community.”

“I’m very proud of him,” Chris continued.

Now, her eyes are on George’s little brother, Phoenix.

Greek Orthodox

They hope that he will be the next in the family to take up this Greek Orthodox tradition.

Nicole Rogers of News Channel

“Are you going to receive the cross one day?” asked Nicole Rogers of News Channel 8.

“Yes,” Phoenix replied.

Phoenix will have to wait until he is 16 years old.

Only Orthodox

Only Orthodox men between the ages of 16 and 18 are allowed to participate in the ceremonial immersion. Those three years leave memories that divers say are worth a lifetime.

Nikitas Lulias

Past divers have included war veterans, doctors, lawyers, and politicians. Among the more notable retrievers of the past is Nikitas Lulias, who regained the cross in 1974 and now serves as Archbishop of Thyatira and Great Britain.


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