January 26, 2020

Russians Celebrate Epiphany in Ice-Cold Water


Russians Celebrate Epiphany in Ice-Cold Water
Would you want to take a dip here? RIA Novosti archive, image #550903 / Vitaliy Ankov / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

More than two million believers took part in Epiphany Day celebrations on January 19. This holiday is dedicated to Jesus Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River.

There are many ways to mark this holiday, but they all involve water. Priests bless water, which is believed to then maintain special properties; for example, the water allegedly won’t go sour when it’s stored for long periods. In addition, it is said to heal bodily and spiritual diseases and drive away evil spirits.

There’s also a folk tradition of being immersed in ice-cold water to symbolize Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. The night before or the day of Epiphany, thousands of believers dunk themselves three times in icy water to embrace their faith. Doctors recommend no more than 30 seconds in the water, to avoid hypothermia, and suggest going in only up to one's chin, without dunking your entire head underwater. Other experts aver that there are some benefits from the cold, such as strengthening the immune system and developing the cardiovascular system.

In the week following Epiphany, many cities organized volunteer clean-up opportunities for locals to help pick up cups, slippers, towels, and other trash leftover from the celebrations. For example, in the Chelyabinsk region, around 102 baptismal-style dunkings were organized, with over 40,000 people participating. The region had a  large-sale volunteer clean-up day yesterday.

Tags: epiphany
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