Worshippers across Belarus have been braving icy (well, almost) waters for Epiphany, one of the most important holidays in the Orthodox Christian calendar.
Men and women, young and elderly people can usually be seen leaping through holes in the ice on frozen rivers and lakes. However, this year a key ingredient was missing: it is not cold in Belarus.
The warmest winter in a generation has melted the ice and snow, leaving Belarus’ faithful fretting about their traditional winter swim and settle for specially equipped “ice-holes” at rescue stations.
Celebrated on 19 January, Epiphany commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan. Priests across the country bless water for worshippers to submerge themselves in holes of icy water.
They may dip themselves three times in the water to honour the Holy Trinity. It is believed the midwinter submersion brings good health to worshippers and washes them of their sins.
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