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31 March 2024 ( 253 views )
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Russians brave icy cold for Epiphany

A girl emerges from cold water after plunging into icy pond to mark the upcoming Epiphany in the northwestern Moscow, Monday, Jan. 18, 2010. Thousands of Russian Orthodox Church followers plunged Monday into icy rivers and ponds across the country to mark the upcoming Epiphany, cleansing themselves with water deemed holy for the day. Water that is blessed by a cleric on Epiphany is considered holy and pure until next year's celebration, and is believed to have special powers of protection and healing. The Russian Orthodox Church follows the old Julian calendar, according to which Epiphany falls on Jan. 19. Moscow temperatures on Monday morning dropped to -20 C (-4 F). (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel) — AP
A girl emerges from cold water after plunging into icy pond to mark the upcoming Epiphany in the northwestern Moscow, Monday, Jan. 18, 2010. Thousands of Russian Orthodox Church followers plunged Monday into icy rivers and ponds across the country to mark the upcoming Epiphany, cleansing themselves with water deemed holy for the day. Water that is blessed by a cleric on Epiphany is considered holy and pure until next year’s celebration, and is believed to have special powers of protection and healing. The Russian Orthodox Church follows the old Julian calendar, according to which Epiphany falls on Jan. 19. Moscow temperatures on Monday morning dropped to -20 C (-4 F). (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel) — AP 
( / AP)
A girl emerges from cold water after plunging into icy pond to mark the upcoming Epiphany in the northwestern Moscow, Monday, Jan. 18, 2010. Thousands of Russian Orthodox Church followers plunged Monday into icy rivers and ponds across the country to mark the upcoming Epiphany, cleansing themselves with water deemed holy for the day. Water that is blessed by a cleric on Epiphany is considered holy and pure until next year's celebration, and is believed to have special powers of protection and healing. The Russian Orthodox Church follows the old Julian calendar, according to which Epiphany falls on Jan. 19. Moscow temperatures on Monday morning dropped to -20 C (-4 F). (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel) — AP
A girl emerges from cold water after plunging into icy pond to mark the upcoming Epiphany in the northwestern Moscow, Monday, Jan. 18, 2010. Thousands of Russian Orthodox Church followers plunged Monday into icy rivers and ponds across the country to mark the upcoming Epiphany, cleansing themselves with water deemed holy for the day. Water that is blessed by a cleric on Epiphany is considered holy and pure until next year’s celebration, and is believed to have special powers of protection and healing. The Russian Orthodox Church follows the old Julian calendar, according to which Epiphany falls on Jan. 19. Moscow temperatures on Monday morning dropped to -20 C (-4 F). (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel) — AP 
( / AP)
A man plunges into an icy pond to mark the upcoming Epiphany in the northwestern Moscow, Monday, Jan. 18, 2010. Thousands of Russian Orthodox Church followers plunged Monday into icy rivers and ponds across the country to mark the upcoming Epiphany, cleansing themselves with water deemed holy for the day. Water that is blessed by a cleric on Epiphany is considered holy and pure until next year's celebration, and is believed to have special powers of protection and healing. The Russian Orthodox Church follows the old Julian calendar, according to which Epiphany falls on Jan. 19. Moscow temperatures on Monday morning dropped to -20 C (-4 F). (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel) — AP
A man plunges into an icy pond to mark the upcoming Epiphany in the northwestern Moscow, Monday, Jan. 18, 2010. Thousands of Russian Orthodox Church followers plunged Monday into icy rivers and ponds across the country to mark the upcoming Epiphany, cleansing themselves with water deemed holy for the day. Water that is blessed by a cleric on Epiphany is considered holy and pure until next year’s celebration, and is believed to have special powers of protection and healing. The Russian Orthodox Church follows the old Julian calendar, according to which Epiphany falls on Jan. 19. Moscow temperatures on Monday morning dropped to -20 C (-4 F). (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel) — AP 
( / AP)
An elderly woman and girl wade into an icy pond to mark the upcoming Epiphany in the northwestern Moscow, Monday, Jan. 18, 2010. Thousands of Russian Orthodox Church followers plunged Monday into icy rivers and ponds across the country to mark the upcoming Epiphany, cleansing themselves with water deemed holy for the day. Water that is blessed by a cleric on Epiphany is considered holy and pure until next year's celebration, and is believed to have special powers of protection and healing. The Russian Orthodox Church follows the old Julian calendar, according to which Epiphany falls on Jan. 19. Moscow temperatures on Monday morning dropped to -20 C (-4 F). (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel) — AP
An elderly woman and girl wade into an icy pond to mark the upcoming Epiphany in the northwestern Moscow, Monday, Jan. 18, 2010. Thousands of Russian Orthodox Church followers plunged Monday into icy rivers and ponds across the country to mark the upcoming Epiphany, cleansing themselves with water deemed holy for the day. Water that is blessed by a cleric on Epiphany is considered holy and pure until next year’s celebration, and is believed to have special powers of protection and healing. The Russian Orthodox Church follows the old Julian calendar, according to which Epiphany falls on Jan. 19. Moscow temperatures on Monday morning dropped to -20 C (-4 F). (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel) — AP 
( / AP)
Russian Orthodox priest, right, and believer help a girl to get out of ice cold water after plunging into icy pond to mark the upcoming Epiphany in the northwestern Moscow, Monday, Jan. 18, 2010. Thousands of Russian Orthodox Church followers plunged Monday into icy rivers and ponds across the country to mark the upcoming Epiphany, cleansing themselves with water deemed holy for the day. Water that is blessed by a cleric on Epiphany is considered holy and pure until next year's celebration, and is believed to have special powers of protection and healing. The Russian Orthodox Church follows the old Julian calendar, according to which Epiphany falls on Jan. 19. Moscow temperatures on Monday morning dropped to -20 Celsius (-4 Farenheit). (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel) — AP
Russian Orthodox priest, right, and believer help a girl to get out of ice cold water after plunging into icy pond to mark the upcoming Epiphany in the northwestern Moscow, Monday, Jan. 18, 2010. Thousands of Russian Orthodox Church followers plunged Monday into icy rivers and ponds across the country to mark the upcoming Epiphany, cleansing themselves with water deemed holy for the day. Water that is blessed by a cleric on Epiphany is considered holy and pure until next year’s celebration, and is believed to have special powers of protection and healing. The Russian Orthodox Church follows the old Julian calendar, according to which Epiphany falls on Jan. 19. Moscow temperatures on Monday morning dropped to -20 Celsius (-4 Farenheit). (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel) — AP 
( / AP)

It's not exactly the Jordan River, but that isn't stopping Russian Orthodox believers from plunging into the icy Moscow River in their traditional Epiphany celebration.

Braving temperatures of minus 25 degrees Celsius (minus 13 Fahrenheit), hoards queued overnight and into dawn Tuesday to dunk themselves into a hole in the ice in Moscow and rise again in a ritual symbolizing rebirth.

"After the Epiphany dive, all your illnesses, all your problems just fade away," film actor and stuntman Alik Gulkhanov told AP Television News as he came out of the water, his hair frozen into little icicles.

The scene, mimicking the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, was repeated from Vladivostok to Volgograd across Russia in a ceremony whose popularity is increasing with that of the Orthodox Church.

Typically a cross is carved out of the ice near the bathing spot, and a wooden dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit is thrown into the water.

Many of the stripped-down swimmers were blase about the frigid weather, and warmed themselves with another spirit - vodka - before submerging. State television showed images of people emerging from the water and saying they felt reborn as they scrambled for towels and coats.

While in western Christian traditions, Epiphany marks the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus, in Eastern Orthodoxy the festival commemorates Christ's baptism.

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