Orthodox Christians in Russia and Ukraine brave icy epiphany dip
(19 Jan 2018) Hundreds of Russians and Ukrainians took a dip in icy waters in freezing cold temperatures on Friday to celebrate Epiphany, a major holiday in Orthodox Christianity marking the birth and baptism of Jesus.
Water blessed by a priest on the Epiphany week in Orthodox tradition is considered holy and pure, and bathing is believed to have healing powers.
In the small town of Handyga, in the Sakha Republic of Russia, about 100 men and women went into freezing cold water while the air temperature was -49 degrees Celsius.
People were brought by bus to an ice hole prepared the night before and jumped into it in turns to go through the extremely cold ritual.
The Orthodox believe that taking a dip in the blessed waters purifies one's soul, takes away sins and brings good health.
Still the ritual is quite extreme and not many dare to try it.
"The first dip takes your breath away but then your body starts burning," said a local resident of Handyga after a quick cold dive.
Sakha Republic is known for being one of the coldest places in Russia.
In Yakutsk, special tents are set up each year for those who want to take a dip.
People have a warm place to change, aren't scared away by the wind and get into the water from a more comfortable environment.
In Moscow, ice holes are prepared each year in all the districts and people usually dive outside, without tents. This year they were diving in at -9C.
In Kiev, capital of neighbouring Ukraine, brave believers tend to run into the waters of the Dnipro River straight from the shores, if the river isn't frozen, in the Epiphany ritual.
On Friday the temperature in Kiev was zero degrees Celsius.
You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metad....ata/youtube/e161e47c
Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork