January 28, 2022

Frozen Traditions, The Epiphany Swim


Frozen Traditions, The Epiphany Swim
Russian men in line to become popsicles.  Wikimedia Commons, RIA Novosti

The Epiphany swim is an annual event that calls thousands to wander outdoors to face the below-freezing water temperatures. The swim takes place on January 19th, to celebrate the beginning of the Feast of the Epiphany led by the Russian Orthodox Church. The specific date is particularly important because it is then that, per Eastern Orthodox tradition, the son of God was revealed to be Jesus Christ after his baptism in the Jordan River.

The day is exactly as it sounds: a swim. The fact that Jesus was baptized in the balmy Middle East doesn't dissuade thousands of Russians from taking dunks in freezing rivers or lakes in only their bathing suits. For those that participate with religious meaning, the water is believed to be holy, and three dunks underwater will serve as a baptism, purifying one of their sins. Participants are welcome regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. Since the 1980s, the swim has been an increasingly popular tradition for all that wish to freeze.

After all, when in Russia...

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