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Ice swimming: Russia’s bracing celebration of Epiphany


The Moscow Times | Youtube

Zelda Caldwell - published on 01/19/18

Orthodox Christians take the plunge in below-freezing temperatures and icy water.

For Orthodox Christians the feast of the Epiphany (or Theophany), which takes place on January 19 and commemorates Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan, is celebrated with a blessing of the waters. On this holy day, at midnight on the eve of the feast, thousands of Russian Orthodox brave below-freezing temperatures and plunge (if only briefly) into ice-cold lakes and rivers in a ritual of purification that lasts throughout the night.

Literally not for the faint of heart (those with cardiac conditions should take a pass), in addition to the graces the blessed waters may bring, ice swimming is said to boost the immune system, prevent premature aging, and help with digestion, sleep and metabolism, according to a report in Pravda. A word of warning to those who may be tempted: any dive lasting longer than 10-15 seconds is considered life-threatening.

As Russians prepare to take an icy dip, here’s a look at that will make you shiver:

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On the eve of Russian Orthodox Epiphany, January 19 (as the Russian Orthodox Church follows the historic Julian Calendar) hundreds of thousands of Russians prepare for what they do on Epiphany every year, namely to gather – like here in Yekaterinburg – and take a dip in the icy priest-blessed waters. This is believed to cleanse the soul of sins and protect the faithful from evil. According to Orthodox Christian tradition, this January feast day celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan. In many places, the first faithful arrive before sunrise and the ceremony continues throughout the day and into the night. You can find more photographs from Russian Epiphany events on my website: @thephotosociety @natgeo @natgeocreative @theimagereview #RussianEpiphany #RussianOrthodox #celebration #religion #tradition #iceswimming

A post shared by Gerd Ludwig (@gerdludwig) on

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