Epiphany in Kioni and Frikes, Ithaki
Sunday 6th January
The church bells tolled, the dogs barked and the bay waters began to ripple under an increasing wind just in time for the Cross throwing. This religious ceremony brings the locals out of their warm homes and into the streets for January. Starting time 10am in Kioni, 11am in Frikes. Papas Babbis, overseas both ceremonies rushing from one to the other. There's holy water and blessings to be received this day.
It's Sunday, cold and the possibility of rain, but that doesn't halt the Epiphany ceremonies around the island, where traditionally men and boys dive for the Cross thrown into the waters by an Orthodox priest of the village. This year however, young Thalia, a local Kioni girl, was the only one in Kioni to brave not only the cold outside, but the cold waters of both Kioni and Frikes Bay. While everyone else was rugged up in their winter best, this young champion wowed everyone.
Everyone applauds Thalia for the great effort. With all the strong young men around, only this young girl had the courage to dive in after the cross in Kioni. Just goes to prove you don't need hard skin to brave the cold waters of the bay, only inner strength. A strength not requiring muscle tone or hairy chest. Well done Thalia!
While Epiphany was concluding in Kioni, the Frikes community was already gathering in the small church behind the bayside, waiting for Papas Babbis to arrive for the ceremony there. People kept arriving, some gathering at Kikis Mini Market, the only establishment that was open for business at this time of day, others hanging around the street, taking the opportunity to socialize with friends and relatives. Frikes in winter, unlike summer, can be very dull and a little depressing, but Epiphany changed all that for a couple of hours and made for a great morning out and about.


in Kioni and Frikes Ithaca Greece 2008

As with most religious ceremonies on Ithaca, it's a time when all the family take part in the tradition. Young and old enjoy the honour of such days. Members of the community help in the church, chant and sing through the streets as the cross is delivered from the chapel to the sea where everyone gathers around the priest as he delivers his sermon by the waters edge and while the brave ready themselves both physically and mentailly to dive in. In Frikes, over the past years, it has been Gerasimos (from the Frikes Petrol Station) that has been the only one dedicated and brave enough to challenge the cold, but this year, it Sabel and Vagelis, along with Thalia, who had already christened the waters in Kioni, that lined up next to Gerasimos, ready to dive in after the cross. Right - Gerasimos getting ready to join Papas Babbis on the pier.
Winter on Ithaki Greece
Above - Thalia, definitely this years champion of Epiphany. Not only did she dive in in Kioni, but also gave the boys of Frikes a run for their money when it was time to dive in after the cross.
Below Left - Gerasimos, the mainstay of the Frikes Epiphany. Those eager to dive into the cold waters of the bay, think more about the honour this bestows upon them then on the discomfort of the cold.
Below Right - Sabel and Vageli, a couple of fairly new locals, proud to have taken part in the Epiphany ritual this year.
It was really great morning with Epiphany. Everyone was in great spirits, happy, sociable and eager to step into this annual tradition. In Kioni, the locals headed for Spavento bar for their coffees, while in Frikes, after looking around for somewhere to have a coffee, those really eager for one, also headed to Kioni or to Stavros, Margarita Cafe. congratulations to Thalia, Gerasimos, Sabel and Vageli for braving the Ithakis winter waters so that we all had something to photograph and leave the house for.

Epiphany 2008

A Winter Special on ithacagreece.com