February 2, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

Jumping into the water behind the cross is a male prerogative

The Greek tradition of jumping into the water behind the holy cross on the day of Epiphany remains a largely male matter even into the 21st century.

Dozens of men aged 8 to 89 jumped into the cold sea, river or lake on January 6, 2023, to catch a cross thrown by a priest to bless the water on the day of the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.

28 men and one girl jumped into the waters of Thermaikos Gulf to catch a cross in Thessaloniki, state broadcaster ERT reported today.

39-year-old Michalis Apostolidis was the lucky one to catch the cross and receive a blessing. Apostolidis, who works as an IT engineer, said that this is the fourth time he has been blessed in Thessaloniki and has caught the cross a total of 18 times so far, according to local media thestival.gr.

In the port of Piraeus, dozens of members of the Greek fleet jumped into the water, one of them caught the cross and received a blessing, while the rest shared the blessed experience. In towns and cities, the jumps were made by men, and perhaps one or two women joined the tradition, as in the past. However, so far this has not been mentioned in the media.

Video: Three male students jump for a cross in Almiropotamos, Evia.

Video: Young boys jump behind a cross in Patras and sing the national anthem.

It’s not that girls and women in Greece are afraid of cold water in January. Many of them are engaged in winter swimming, and, of course, women serving in the navy would be happy to join this fertile experience. But it is precisely the patriarchal traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church and conservative society that keep women away from a religious tradition reserved for men only.

It was in the popular Greek film of 1960 that the first time a woman was shown jumping into the water behind a cross. However, it was a production for the benefit of the young Madalena, as the priest in the film simply wanted to help an impoverished and orphaned family with six children receive a blessing and persuade the pious local community to set sail with the family’s only possession, a boat.

Video: Madalena (1960)

However, little has changed from 1960 to 2023. The traditions of the Greek patriarchal society remain unchanged, apparently, only men deserve the blessing of the Church and, of course, the Epiphany of the Holy Spirit associated with it.

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