Russian Orthodox worshippers brave icy conditions for Epiphany

Russian Orthodox worshippers brave icy conditions for Epiphany
By Philip Andrew Churm
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Across Russia Orthodox Christians celebrate Epiphany by immersing themselves in freezing water through holes cut through the ice.

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In Russia, the Orthodox Church has observed the Christian festival of Epiphany, which marks the moment Jesus was revealed as the son of God during his baptism in the River Jordan.

Many worshippers braved sub-zero temperatures in holes cut into ice and rivers as they imitated the baptism. Other people looked on while trying to stay warm.

Emergency services were on hand in case of any medical problems. But many participants were unfazed.

A resident of the city of Irkutsk, in eastern Siberia told reporters: "Wonderful!  We bathe every year with the guys. So it's normal. The weather is great today, it's a great day, The Epiphany."

Priests blessed the water before the devout took the plunge. And the men and women who did so included young and old.

In the Russian Orthodox tradition the water is considered pure and holy and many believe it can heal illness.

But with temperatures in some parts of the country falling as low as minus 30 degrees centigrade, such devotion is not for the feeble-hearted.

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