The Russian Orthodox Church is celebrating on Wednesday Epiphany Eve, a religious holiday commemorating the baptism of Jesus Christ.
Apart from traditional festive church services, Russians also have a tradition of Epiphany dips, when people cut cross-shaped holes in ice of water bodies, the churchmen bless the water, and on the eve of the Epiphany, after going to a church, people dip thrice into the freezing water, crossing themselves before each dip.
The ritual itself partly repeats the ceremony of christening, an initiation into the Christian religion, but according to a popular belief, as it is performed by already christened people, Epiphany dips wash out sins from sincerely repented people.
Normally, this time of the year in Russia is particularly cold, it is epoch of the Epiphany frosts, the period of the year's lowest temperatures, and because of that the Epiphany dips are also considered as kind of a test for the strength of the faith.
The Orthodox Church is trying to organize Epiphany dips in orderly manner to avoid accidents such as getting frostbites or even drowning.
For that, warm tents with hot drinks, primarily tea with lemon, are set near the ice holes, where people also can change their clothes and put something warm after bathing in ice-cold water.
This year, 46 places are listed in the Russian capital Moscow, 20 in the second-largest city of St. Petersburg, and hundreds across Russia, for example, only in Moscow there are 225 official places for Epiphany dips.
In some Russian regions people carry out the ritual in extreme temperatures, such as the governor of Yakutia region, Aysen Nikolayev, dived in the Lena River at temperature of -50 degrees Celsius.
Source: Anadolu Agency