An Orthodox Christian diocese in the nation of Macedonia has banned female swimmers from taking part in the annual blessing of the waters ceremony to mark the Epiphany holiday, the Fox News website reports today (January 19, 2015).
Tens of thousands of people across the landlocked country today attended river and lakeside religious ceremonies, where swimmers raced to retrieve crosses thrown into the water by Orthodox clerics.
Women were banned from taking part in the ceremony in the eastern Macedonia area of Bregalnica, where clergy said the cross should be retrieved by a man, because of his role as traditional head of the family.
Police intervened in the area last year, when a female swimmer reached the cross first, but had it forcibly taken away from her by a man.
(Nota Bene: The term "Macedonia" as used in the above article refers to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia ((FYROM for short)), not the region in northern Greece that is also called Macedonia.)