These are postcards that show the historic St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Tarpon Springs as well as elements of Tarpon Springs’ famous annual Epiphany Celebration.
The Greek community in Tarpon Springs has its origins in the 1890s with a large number of Greeks moving to the town just after the turn of the century to be part of the sponge diving industry. As of 2020, it has the largest percapita Greek-American community in the US. The St. Nicholas Cathedral was completed in 1943 and elevated to cathedral status in 1976.
Epiphany, also known as Theophany in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, is a celebration of the baptism of Jesus by St. John the Baptist and is thus a different celebration than in Western Christian tradition. The name Theophany is closer in form to the Greek Θεοφάνεια (“God shining forth”) – loosely meaning the appearance of a deity to a human, as in Greek mythology when Zeus revealed himself fully to Semele (she perished, consumed in lightning-ignited flame). Theophany for Greek Orthodox Christians represents Jesus’ manifestation to the world as the Son of God through his baptism.
Among the celebrations in Tarpon Springs is the Blessing of the Waters, a particularly important ritual in a community that continues to have a close connection with the water for its livelihood. During the ritual, the community gathers at the water’s edge and a priest throws a white cross into the water. Boys aged 16 to 18 dive into Spring Bayou to collect the cross. The boy who does so has blessings bestowed on him and his family for the next year.
The ritual is the largest event of its type in the western hemisphere, with thousands of locals and visitors attending. Tarpon Springs is officially known as the Epiphany City.