Thousands of Greek-Australians flocked to Rye last Wednesday to celebrate the Theophania, one of the holiest days on the Greek Orthodox calendar.

I think that it’s a blessing from God and I’m really proud to have successfully done this. It is going to bring health, guidance and good luck to my family.

The main event of the day was the blessing of the waters, marked by the race to retrieve the holy cross tossed off the pier by Reverend Father Eleftherios Tatsis from the Holy Monastery of Panagia Kamariani at Red Hill.

By coincidence, the lucky-dip was won by Rev Fr Tatsis’ grandson, 16 year-old Nicholas Petropoulos of Safety Beach

“I think that it’s a blessing from God and I’m really proud to have successfully done this. It is going to bring health, guidance and good luck to my family. It’s a big honour,” Nicholas said.

“I thought I was going to get it, I’ve wanted it so bad since I was a little boy,” he said.

A beaming pappou, Rev Fr Eleftherios expressed his pride for both his grandson, and the hundreds of Greek-Australian youth who turned out to honour the day.

“It’s my great joy not only that my grandson got the cross, but that so many second and third generation young people come here, fill up the pier without offer of reward, and try their luck to retrieve the cross,” he said.

The Theophania has been celebrated on the Mornington Peninsula with a race to retrieve the cross from the water for over 40 years.

Tradition says that the person who retrieves the cross will be blessed with health and good fortune for the year ahead. It is also considered good luck for others to kiss the holy cross.

“My father, who was a priest, used to say, ‘today take water from wherever you want and it will be a blessing, because God has blessed this day’,” said Rev Fr Eleftherios.
The holiness of the day was not lost on the participants either, in particular 41 year-old Steve Gialis who returned to jump at Rye, having won the race for the cross in 2008.

“Quite honestly I think there was someone up there looking over me and my family,” Gialis said of the year following his victory.

Following the lucky-dip the festivities carried on into the afternoon with thousands gathering on the Rye foreshore to share in the food, drinks and festivities. Souvlakia and loukoumades were in abundance as many danced the afternoon away to Zagorisia, Epirotika and Kalamatiana.

The event was even supported by the Rye police, with Leading Senior Constable Terri O’Callaghan, who recently travelled to Greece, paying her customary visit and allowing herself to indulge in some of the Greek delicacies.

“Normally there’s police here for the whole day but unfortunately due to staff shortages there couldn’t be this year.

I’ve been for the last 10 years so just thought I would call across now to have a quick look.

I think it’s great, and the Greeks certainly do it well,” she said.
Meanwhile, similar festivities were happening further north where Acting Premier Rob Hulls and Greek Consul-General Christos Salamanis witnessed Kostas Mavroyiannis of Burwood retrieve the cross launched from the Frankston pier by Bishop Ezekiel.