Russian Orthodox Christians plunge into icy rivers and lakes to celebrate the Epiphany

David Sim | 20 January 2015

Russian Orthodox Christians braved freezing temperatures as they plunged into icy water to celebrate the Epiphany. Special cross-shaped holes were cut into the thick ice covering rivers and lakes, with wooden steps leading into the water.

The age-old ritual commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River, or the Epiphany, which the Russian Orthodox Church marks on 19 January.

Traditionally, the celebration starts the night before. By bathing on this day, believers symbolically wash away their sins.

orthodox-epiphany1A girl reacts as her father immerses her in an ice hole in the Chulym river, with the air temperature at about minus 12 degrees Celsius (10.4 degrees Fahrenheit), near Nazarovo, Krasnoyarsk region, Russia(Ilya Naymushin/Reuters)

orthodox-epiphany2A man reacts as he immerses himself in an ice hole in the Moskva river on the outskirts of Moscow(Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

orthodox-epiphany3People take a dip in cross-shaped ice hole in Kiev, Ukraine(Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

orthodox-epiphany4A man crosses himself as he takes a dip into a cross-shaped pool cut into thick ice covering a lake near the village of Sretinka, Kyrgyzstan(Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP)

orthodox-epiphany5A man crosses himself as he takes a dip into the icy waters of a lake as part of celebrations for Epiphany, near the village of Pilnitsa, north east of Minsk, Belarus(Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters)

orthodox-epiphany6A man jumps into an ice hole in the Sea of Japan’s Amur Bay, in Vladivostok, far eastern Russia, at a temperature of about minus 7 Celsius(Yuri Maltsev/Reuters)

orthodox-epiphany7An Orthodox believer dips into the icy waters of a pond in Moscow(Vasily Maximov/AFP)


orthodox-epiphany8A man plunges into an ice hole in the Moskva river during celebrations for Russian Orthodox Epiphany on the outskirts of Moscow(Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)


A man and a child immerse themselves in an ice hole in a pond near the Ostankino television tower in Moscow(Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters)

orthodox-epiphany10People bathe in a hole cut into a frozen lake to celebrate Russian Orthodox Epiphany in Vilnius, Lithuania(Petras Malukas/AFP)

orthodox-epiphany11Orthodox Christians take a dip in the icy waters of a lake near the village of Sretinka, near Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan(Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP)

orthodox-epiphany12A man swims in a cross cut out of ice covering a lake in Minsk, Belarus(Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters)

orthodox-epiphany13A man jumps into an ice hole icy waters during celebrations for Orthodox Epiphany in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine(Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

orthodox-epiphany14Servicemen of the Belarussian Interior Ministry’s special unit wait in a queue to dip into the icy waters of a lake near the village of Zadomlia, east of Minsk(Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters)

orthodox-epiphany15A man bathes in the icy water of the Bolshaya Almatinka river during an Epiphany celebration in Almaty, Kazakhstan(Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters)

orthodox-epiphany17Men tussle over a cross thrown by the Archbishop into the freezing waters of the river Vardar in Skopje, Macedonia(Robert Atanasovski/AFP)

epiphany16Believers jump from the bridge to catch a cross thrown into the river in Podgorica, Montenegro(Stevo Vasiljevic/Reuters)

orthodox-epiphany18A man holds a cross he retrieved from the water during Epiphany Day celebrations in Prijedor, Bosnia(Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

orthodox-epiphany19A man splashes cold water on other men before they swim for a wooden cross on Epiphany Day in Belgrade, Serbia. Orthodox priests throughout the region bless the waters by throwing a cross into it. It is believed that catching the cross brings health and prosperity(Djordje Kojadinovic/Reuters)




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