Orthodox Russians celebrate Epiphany

Churches bless the waters and the more valiant take a dive into holes in the ice. Late Patriarch Aleksy II's temporary replacement, Metropolitan Kirill<.b>, will perform a Holy liturgy and a great blessing of waters in Moscow's Epiphany Cathedral where Aleksy II was buried.

And thousands are attending church services all around the country which are on this day followed by the Procession with the Cross.

The holy water blessed on Epiphany is considered to preserve its special qualities - the ability to improve spiritual and physical health - throughout the year.

Orthodox Christians believe that on Epiphany all water around the world becomes holy, and immersing oneself in it three times will prevent illnesses.

Usually there is no lack of those brave enough for a sacred ice swim as it's said one cannot catch a cold on this day.

The holes cut into the ice are referred to as `Jordans' after the Jordan River where Jesus Christ was baptised by John the Baptist.

For those less courageous a glass of blessed water is an alternative.

Thousands of believers also travel to the Jordan River to get healing there. The area on the Israeli-Jordan border is usually closed. The Epiphany is the only day when the authorities keep it open.

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