THOUSANDS of people flocked to the Rye pier on Friday (6 January) to join in the Blessing of the Waters celebration, and to escape the 33-degree heat in the cool waters of Port Phillip.
The ceremony is held every year at Rye by followers of the Greek Orthodox faith to celebrate Epiphany Day and the baptism of Jesus.
Divers of different ages and energy levels dived off the pier after a wooden cross was blessed by the Very Reverand Elefterios Tatsis before being tossed into the bay.
Stelios Kardas, 37, from Melbourne, was first to the cross this year.
Participants at a similar event at Frankston were asked to sign a waiver acknowledging the illness risk involved in diving into possibly polluted waters after flash flooding swept waste into Port Phillip last week.
Swimmers were advised to thoroughly shower straight afterwards by Coast Guard volunteers at the group’s clubhouse.
The holy cross is believed to bring health, guidance and good fortune to those who retrieve it, and their families, for the year ahead.