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Russian Women Wade Into Wintry Waters

19. January 2011 by Michelle 0 Comments

Thousands of Russian Orthodox Church followers are forgetting about the frigid temperatures and hopping into ice holes for Epiphany. The old Julian calendar celebrates this holiday on January 19th, but Epiphany Eve masses were held last night and many have already taken the plunge.


The icy waters are blessed during the evening church services and then blessed again today. The chilly ceremonies celebrate the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. Believers submerge themselves three times in any of the ice holes carved in ponds and lakes throughout the country.


Moscow temperatures dropped to -14° C (8° F) today, while it’s a brutal -39° C (-38° F) in the Siberian city of Yakutsk. The waters are considered to have special powers of protection and healing, and will remain pure and holy until next year’s celebration.


Since President Medvedev’s current trip to the Middle East coincides with the Christian holiday, he’ll be visiting the holy sites of Jordan today. His hosts have even prepared a special robe in case he decides to dip into the river. He will also attend the inauguration of the Russian Pilgrim House on the east bank of the Jordan, which consists of a hospice for travelers and an Orthodox church built over the last three years.


January 19th also marks the last day of Svyatki, or Russian Christmastide. Winter festivals finish, fortune telling traditions taper off, and Christmas carols conclude. As Russian women have been getting back to work and school after the long winter break, they are looking forward to the warmer weather of spring.











Photos: Alexei Vitvitskiy