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Thousands plunge into freezing waters to solemnly mark Orthodox Epiphany

By Anna Liesowska
19 January 2016

Temperatures as low as minus 41C did not deter Russians immersing themselves as medics stood ready to offer help.

-27C Epiphany dip. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya

Here in Novosibirsk our pictures show people submerging themselves during the night in the freezing waters of the Ob River. The temperature  was minus 27C but elsewhere in Siberia the thermometer dipped lower, with Yakutsk recording minus 41C. 

The fall of Communism in Russia has seen a remarkable recovery of the nation's traditional Orthodox faith, and nowhere is this evident more clearly that at Epiphany, marked here on 19 January.

It was the day Jesus Christ was baptised in the River Jordan, and Orthodox Christians here cut holes in the ice to immerse themselves in rivers or lakes, reconnecting with a tradition going back centuries.

The church supports this mass bathing while cautioning that adherents are taking part in a solemn ceremony and not merely having fun or swimming for a dare. 

Thousands plunge into freezing waters to solemnly mark Orthodox Epiphany


Thousands plunge into freezing waters to solemnly mark Orthodox Epiphany


Thousands plunge into freezing waters to solemnly mark Orthodox Epiphany
Bathers are warned to abstain from alcohol before taking the plunge, and not to immerse themselves for more than 30 seconds. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya


Starting as darkness fell on Monday, and continuing on Tuesday, millions of Russians were participating in this important religious ceremony. 

Across the country's 11 time zones from the Pacific to the Baltic, medics stood by to help those overcome by the cold, while many ran to nearby banyas - or saunas - to warm after the bracing, and healthy, experience. 

In churches and cathedrals, religious services were held and water was blessed. 

Today, two thirds of Russians consider themselves Orthodox Christians compared with less than 10 per cent in 1989 on the eve of the Soviet collapse. 

Cross-shaped holes in the ice are called 'iordans', named after the River Jordan.

The waters are blessed by priests and the devout plunge into the 'iordans' three times, in honour of the Holy Trinity.

Thousands plunge into freezing waters to solemnly mark Orthodox Epiphany


Thousands plunge into freezing waters to solemnly mark Orthodox Epiphany


medics stood by to help those overcome by the cold
Medics stood by to help those overcome by the cold-27C. Pictures here and below: Vera Salnitskaya


Bathers are warned to abstain from alcohol before taking the plunge, and not to immerse themselves for more than 30 seconds.

They are also warned by the church that diving into the icy waters on Epiphany is not a church rite but more a Russian tradition.

Believers are told that 'sins are only forgiven through repentance and confession'.

Thousands plunge into freezing waters to solemnly mark Orthodox Epiphany


Thousands plunge into freezing waters to solemnly mark Orthodox Epiphany


Thousands plunge into freezing waters to solemnly mark Orthodox Epiphany


Thousands plunge into freezing waters to solemnly mark Orthodox Epiphany


Thousands plunge into freezing waters to solemnly mark Orthodox Epiphany


Thousands plunge into freezing waters to solemnly mark Orthodox Epiphany

Comments (4)

God doesn´t want believer to be sick, but healthier so portable saunas will be increasingly used.
Enrique, Spain
20/01/2016 18:53
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0
A good business could be saunas next to it...A fresh bath after the hot sauna would be much more healthy.
Enrique, Spain
20/01/2016 14:58
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0
brave souls indeed.


at least we got up at midnight, had in the kitchen a drink of cold *tap* water. and wetted our face and fore arms with cold water. my wife said, that should keep us from getting sick for a whole year. (she is orthodox,i am catholic)
Benedikt, Moscow,Russia
19/01/2016 10:05
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0
Obedience to God comes before obedience to men and also remember that only God is good, if a man/woman is innocent he will bring them freedom.
Lazar, Moscow
19/01/2016 08:32
0
1
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