Did you know there’s a long tradition of celebrating Epiphany on the Delaware River in Philadelphia? It all started back in 1965 when a cross was ceremonially thrown into the waters with a ribbon attached for retrieval. This historic event was presided over by Reverend Constantinos Pappas of Evangelismos Greek Orthodox Church, the oldest Greek Orthodox church in the community. The church itself has been around since 1906 and is actually the sixth oldest recognized church in all of North America!

Every year, a tradition is observed where a cross attached to a ribbon is tossed into the water as a symbolic act. However, in 1966, a parishioner from Drexel Hill named George Kostomite from Drexel Hill, PA, decided to take things a step further. He jumped into the cold water and retrieved the cross directly, without the help of the ribbon. This brave act of his became a historical moment.

For more than ten years, a lively celebration has happened, and Father Constantinos led the event every year until 1981. The most recent person to participate in the celebration was Gus Raptis from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, which marked the end of a long tradition.

About ten years ago, a beautiful Epiphany tradition had lost popularity and was not practiced much anymore. But then, something amazing happened. The Greek Orthodox community, led by Father Peter Thornberg at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Jeffersonville, PA, brought this tradition back to life with a new energy. Today, the ceremony has changed a bit over time and includes a special moment where a cross is thrown into the Schuylkill River. This tradition is a way to honor its history while also adapting to the times.

The revival of Epiphany celebrations in Philadelphia brought back a cherished tradition and reignited the event’s spiritual and cultural significance. The journey from Delaware to the Schuylkill River, guided by the stewardship of St. Sophia, marks a resurgence that preserves and carries forward a tradition deeply rooted in the history of Philadelphia and the Greek Orthodox community’s enduring spirit.