'Ta Fota': One of Greece’s holiest and most sacred celebrations


The Holy Theophany, also known as the Epiphany, the Celebration of the Lights, or ta Fota (the Lights) is held on January 6 and is one of the most sacred and holiest Feast Days on the Greek Orthodox Calendar.

*Image by Chris Tzotrzis Photography

According to three of the four gospels, Theophany celebrates the revelation of God when, during the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist at the Jordan River, the voice of God is heard from Heaven saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved- with you I am pleased.” It is also the time when the divine presence known as the Holy Trinity came into being; in addition to God and his Son, the Holy Spirit was present, too, arriving in the form of a dove.


Also known as Fota, today is seen as a bright and joyful day for Christians who are blessed with the Holy Water, which symbolises the cleansing of Jesus in the waters of the Jordan River.

Epiphany, along with Easter, is the oldest Christian celebration and there are rich traditions and deep symbolism involved with this Feast Day. The actual day, and its eve, are marked in a variety of ways by many different ceremonies held throughout Greece.

The most important tradition, which takes place amongst Greek Orthodox Churches worldwide is the blessing of the waters with the Holy Cross by a local priest. The faithful are blessed by the Priest who holds the Holy Cross in his hand and dips Vasiliko (basil branches) into the Holy Water and then sprinkles it on the forehead of each parishioner and this is also done during the blessing of Greek Orthodox homes.

Today, Priests will also throw a Holy Cross into the sea or lake and a dove is also released into the sky, then the faithful jump into the water to try to find the Holy Cross. The person who retrieves the Holy Cross and returns it to the priest is said to be blessed for the year ahead.

This is a lovely celebration for children in Greece, who will be singing Fota kalanda (carols) in their neighborhoods, and in return, they will receive sweet treats and money.

Greece’s official national ceremony for the Blessing of the Waters is held in Piraeus, Greece’s main port, with officials and political leaders in attendance, however, similar ceremonies will take place on all islands, cities, towns, and villages throughout Greece, followed by festive events that will highlight local traditions, food, and dancing.

Huge celebrations take place as it concludes the festive Christmas holiday period.

Kala Theofania and Xronia Polla!


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