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The best places to spend a memorable weekend for Epiphany

02 January 2014 / 19:01:30  GRReporter
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Christmas and New Year have passed, but the holidays have not! There are three more days for Greeks to celebrate the New Year with optimism and in the mood to travel.

Epiphany is the third and final celebration of the Christmas holidays and is celebrated in honour of the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan by St. John the Baptist. At Epiphany, after the liturgy, in most regions of Greece, there is a custom of throwing a cross into the water (sea, river or lake), and dozens of men dive in order to take it out and this is considered a real honour.

In many regions of Greece, three white doves are released symbolizing the Holy Trinity and the Holy Spirit who appeared in the form of a dove at the baptism of Jesus. Various other folk customs are observed in other parts of the country.

Here we will show you some areas inside and outside Greece, where Epiphany is celebrated in a unique way.

Ioannina: jumping into the icy waters of the lake

The largest urban centre of the region of Epirus, and one of the most beautiful Greek cities with a rich cultural tradition and significant development, Ioannina is ideal for excursions in the three days off around Epiphany.

In Ioannina and the surrounding area, one can find modern facilities and historic monuments, old mansions and modern buildings, as well as traditional and new districts.

Old and new coexist in harmony here, creating a city which is full of life and which has preserved its rich historical heritage.

You can take a walk in the castle, or down the street with big plane trees, by the lake, in the historic centre of the city, or simply have a coffee in one of the many cafes. Of course, do not forget to visit the island, which is located almost in the middle of the lake, where there is a picturesque village with 343 inhabitants today (according to the 2001 census).

At Epiphany, dozens of men, residents of Ioannina, dive into the icy waters of the lake in order to take out the cross.

Kastoria: "Rangoutsaria" and the beginning of the Carnival

Another beautiful Greek city located on the shore of a lake - Kastoria - is an ideal destination to celebrate Epiphany.

The 74 Byzantine churches, "Doltso" Square, beautiful mansions, leather workshops and the wonderful time at the lake, local traditional flaours and nightlife will impress you, while customs on the day of Epiphany will leave unforgettable memories.

On "Davaki" Square, after the consecration of the water, Saint Basil gives presents to all the children together with the company "Friends of the Rangoutsaria Carnival in Kastoria". On this day, the start of the Carnival is announced by the municipal authorities. From early afternoon, noisy crowds fill the streets and lanes of the city, accompanied by live music, folk groups with traditional rhythms and noisy folk dances.

Drama: traditional customs that chase out evil spirits

Located in the northern part of the country, with its unique natural beauty and history which have left bright traces in the region, Drama celebrates Epiphany in a unique way: with masks, bells, songs, and the recreation of various rites.

On the eve of the feast women take ashes from the hearth and disperse them with their right hand around the house, uttering incantations in order to drive away evil spirits, and on the day of Epiphany, men dressed in animal skins, called "Babougeri", with heavy bells on their waists, appear immediately after the consecration of the water and their noisy presence attracts the attention of all. In the next two days they go around and hit people with their bags full of ashes, in order to drive away evil.

More spectacular traditional customs can be seen in the surrounding villages - Monastiraki, Petrousa, Xiropotamos, Pyrgos and Volakas.

Istanbul: a traditional liturgy in the district of Fanari

Words cannot describe the magic that one feels while walking on the Galata Bridge in Istanbul at dusk, while dozens of fishermen cast their fishing rods in the waters of the Bosphorus, while gulls are flying in the sky.

The largest city and port in Turkey is also a major cultural, economic and industrial centre of the country and has been the capital of three successive empires in its long history: the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, with the result that there can be seen traces of many cultures today.

Besides visits to numerous landmarks, historic buildings and monuments, museums and galleries, markets and beautiful natural landscapes, on the day of Epiphany, you can attend the traditional liturgy in Fanari the seat of the Oecumenical Patriarch, and take part in the procession to the Golden Horn, for the sanctification of the water and throwing of the cross.

Tags: Epiphany customs baptizing Jesus Christ sanctification cross
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