Epiphany – Bless our island’s waters
Epiphany, also known as Theophania or Fota (Feast of Lights), is celebrated on the 6th of January and marks the end of the festive season. On this day we commemorate the Baptism of Jesus Christ in Jordan River and the revelation of the Holy Trinity. All three Persons of the Holy trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) were manifested at the Baptism, thus Epiphany means manifestation.
The main customs of Epiphany are associated with water and light. On that day, people go to church to witness the blessing of the waters, a symbol of the Christ’s Baptism. The priest sanctifies the water and sprinkles the church and the forehead of each church goer with a bunch of basil. People then collect the Holy Water (Drosos) in containers to drink, take home and use it to bless their homes, fields, workplaces and even their animals.
On the same day, after the end of the morning service, people gather at the pier for a communal sanctification of the sea waters. The priest tosses the cross into the sea and the best swimmers dive into the cold water to retrieve the cross. The first to get hold of the cross is considered blessed and will have good luck. In inland villages the ceremony is conducted at lakes, rivers or public fountains.
In some small villages, the priest goes around in every household and blesses it with Holy Water. He is often accompanied by young children who carry a “siklin”, a container of Holy Water, and a lantern bearing the flame from the candelabrum of Christ’s icon. At the end of the blessing, villagers usually offer buns, almonds, walnuts and money to the priest. In the area of Solea people thank the priest offering him “xerotiana” (honey balls), in Lagoudera village they offer “kolliva” (boiled wheat used for commemorations of the dead), whereas in Goudi village in Pafos district they offer “zalatina” (a jelly appetizer made from pig’s head and trotters).
On Epiphany evening, the Great Consecration service is held in the church. In some villages, fruits such as pomegranates, citrus fruits and almonds are brought to the church to be baptized in holy water. Additionally, according to the tradition, each house makes sure to baptize some candles, which are to be used in cases of emergency, like severe weather or power cuts.
Lastly, on Epiphany children receive Pouloustrina: a small amount of money offered to them by relatives, mostly grandparents and godparents. Children first recite: Καλημέρα τζιαι τα Φώτα τζιαι την πουλουστρίνα πρώτα! meaning “Good morning on Fota (Feast of Lights), let me have my Pouloustrina first”. The word “Pouloustrina” derives from the French words “pour estrenne” which means good luck.
And at this point, the series of events and celebrations for Christmas and New Year end, and people move on with their lives armed with love and positive energy derived from the strong family experiences and from our Cypriot customs and traditions.