3 steps to celebrate Epiphany like a Russian

Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik
Jan. 19 marks one of the key Orthodox feasts - Epiphany, or the Baptism of Jesus. Many only associate the day with crazy ice dives but it has far more significance.

Step 1. Collect water and take part in the service

According to Orthodox tradition, the day celebrates Jesus turning to Christianity. On this day he came to John the Baptist and was baptized in Jordan river aged 30, so the Orthodox feast is connected with water, and believers call the ice hole they jump into Jordan, after the Middle Eastern river.

On the evening before of the feast on Jan. 18, Orthodox Christians usually go to church and drink blessed water. This water doesn't have an expiration date and is usually stored by Russians for the rest of the year.

After taking water people usually go to an evening church service. The procession in some churches or cathedrals moves outside and there are special icons to bless the diving place.

Step 2. Dive into holy water

The process symbolizes the baptism of Jesus, and repeats it. During the night of Jan. 18-19 people immerse themselves three times in a row with their head all the way under water. Those who live near the sea tend to dive into the icy waves instead – across Russia all rivers, lakes, and ponds are usually under a thick layer of ice in January.

An ordinary fisherman’s ice hole isn’t enough for a Jordan. A special Epiphany bath hole needs a lot of preparation and someone who knows what they’re doing. If you’re interested, here’s a guide on how to make one

Usually the Orthodox church prepares Jordans for people, while local authorities and emergency services are ready with warm tents to undress in and hot tea to warm people up after they’ve jumped in. Drinking alcohol isn’t part of the tradition, and doctors warn against jumping into icy waters half-cut anyway – it’s not the best idea.

Here are the safety rules you need to know before diving.

Step 3. Collect water again

In the morning on Jan. 19, Orthodox people go to the church to collect freshly blessed water. According to the church officials there is no difference between evening and morning water, so you can take just one of them.

But some families believe these waters serve different purposes and use the evening one for rinsing the face or splashing in the corners of an apartment to drive away evil spirits. At the same time people believe that drinking the morning water before breakfast is good for health.

Read more: When in Russia, do as the Russians. Foreigners take the icy plunge 

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