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: