On the 6th of January of each year we celebrate in Greece the holy day of the Epiphany1 (also called Theofania in Greek), a Christian feast day to commemorate the revelation of God the Son as a human being. It is considered an important festivity for the Orthodox Christians that culminates with the Blessing of the Waters.
The ceremony takes place close to rivers, lakes and ports all over Greece. A priest will throw a cross into the water and volunteers will dive and compete to recover it. The weather, at this time of the year, is usually is stormy and the waters are at their coldest.
The person who gets the cross first, swims back and returns it to the priest to receive in return a special blessing. It can be a fierce competition at times as the blessing is considered to be bring luck throughout the year. Then local fishermen bring their boats to be blessed by the priest.
1. Epiphany, a combined Greek word which is derived from epi: to and phainein: to show, to show forth, to shine upon; the noun is epiphaneia, meaning appearance, manifestation.