Spectators moved online for annual Epiphany celebration dive

Divers will soon take to the water in Tarpon Springs for the annual Epiphany celebration. The historic event usually attracts thousands of people, but because of the pandemic things will look much different this year.

It's a celebration known to draw in as many as 25,000 people,  but this year's Epiphany will be unlike any other.

"It's a good thing to have the waters blessed and to continue on some sort of tradition on a smaller scale," St. Nicholas Cathedral Spokesperson Johanna Kossifidis said.

The tradition -- which falls on January 6 -- commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River.

"You get chills. Thinking about it right now I'm getting goosebumps. It's the most wonderful feeling walking down the street you see everyone screaming your name," diver Antonio Damalos said.

Every year, the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs hosts the celebration at Spring Bayou. The blessing of the waters and the traditional dive for the cross will still happen but without the typical audience.

"The boys have dreamt about this all their lives because their dads have done it. Their grandfathers have done it. There's so much tradition in retrieving the cross," Kossifidis said.

For 114 years, many head to Tarpon Springs for Epiphany celebrations. It marks the baptism of Jesus Christ. It's also a day when dozens of young men dive into the Spring Bayou in hopes of finding a special cross. (FOX 13 News)

This year's event is closed to the public, but a few hundred tickets will be available to parishioners. Two family members of each of the 50 divers will also be able to attend. Masks and social distancing will be enforced.

Also, this year there won't be the traditional Greek festival at the end and the procession from the cathedral to the Bayou will be limited to parishioners and drivers. It's a much different spectacle this year but still one Damalos says he's grateful to experience.

"There's no way to describe it. The blessing you get from this. Forget about getting the cross just the blessing to be in the water is wonderful," Damalos said.

To watch the event live, visit stnicholastarpon.org/livestream.