Tens of Thousands of Russians Plunge Into Icy Waters to Celebrate Epiphany

Playing These Russians Are Braving the Cold in Annual Ice Bathing Tradition

More than 56,000 Russians took the plunge into icy water for their traditional celebration of Epiphany on Saturday.

Residents of the Russian Far East braved frigid temperatures of winter ponds and rivers in honor of the Russian Orthodox Church's holiday on Jan. 19. The Epiphany commemorates the baptism of Jesus, or the "Kreshenie" in Russian. It is believed that taking a cold dip not only purifies the body but also cures diseases, cleanses the soul and strengthens faith. 

Even a minus 40-degree frost didn't stop people from bathing. Video shows the brave faithful being helped in and out of the chilly water in various stages of dress. Special tents next to the icy holes offered people a place to warm up, change clothes and have a cup of hot tea afterward.

Russians also celebrate the holy day by attending church services.

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