Christian Orthodox Epiphany: ice-bathing for anyone brave enough
Holiday. Orthodox Epiphany.
When? January 19.
Where? Eastern Orthodox Christian around the world.
The meaning. The Epiphany, celebrated by the Eastern Orthodox Christian (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus etc.), marks the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan and the manifestation of his divinity when a dove descended on him. For Orthodox Christians it is called Blessing of the Waters Day.
Historical records indicate that the blessing of the waters events took place at the courts of Moscow Czars since no later than 1525.
How it is celebrated. Epiphany seems to be one of the greatest religious holiday of the year for Orthodox Christian. People go to the church to listen to the holy preaching and to get small bottles with the holy water (baptismal water, which is blessed by the priest). In many places, the priest leads the congregation to a local river or lake, which he blesses. The most interesting tradition is to go to the banks of the river, to break the ice and to jump into freezing water. Participants in the ritual may dip themselves three times under the water, honoring the Holy Trinity.
Many people do those “ice-bathing” every year and never become ill. Why? They believe that the water, which is blessed on January 19, has strong healing properties. It washes away the sins from the past and protects against disease and bad energy.
Family traditions. “I couldn’t say that our family is very religious and observe all Christian rituals”, Olga Brochovska, a 28-year-old teacher from Poltava (Ukraine), says. “But every Epiphany my husband with his friends is used to go to the river to bath in icy water. I don’t try to find a deep religious meaning in this ritual: it’s only a test for your courage like “Could I do it or I am not brave enough”. But it’s true that many our people consider that any water on Epiphany becomes holy water and purifies”.
Olga Brochovska with her husband Ivan has been living in Velden am Wörthersee since August 2015. “On January 19 the weather in Velden wasn’t very cold, one degree above zero. So, early morning we went to the Wörthesee and Ivan did what he was used to do every year, bathed in the cold water. Unfortunately, here was no the priest who can bless the water (we are in Austria, not in Ukraine). But everything is okay, Ivan is healthy and we wish everyone a good winter!” (Recherche,Text: Vita Vitrenko)
Photo: Anatoliy Slinko, www.pravmir.ru, http://orthodoxy.org.ua