Thousands of Russians have dived in frozen rivers and ponds this Saturday, despite winter temperatures down to -40 ° C in some regions, on the occasion of the Epiphany celebrated on this date by the Russian Orthodox.
The police estimated this Saturday morning that more than 2.4 million people participated overnight in celebrations across the country. But we did not know exactly how many people bathed up to three times, following the tradition.
The authorities broke the ice and sometimes installed wooden steps to facilitate access to the faithful, eager to immerse themselves in the frozen rivers and lakes to commemorate the baptism of Jesus in Jordan.
Russian Orthodox believers believe that holy water has miraculous properties this day.
In a Moscow park, faithful in swimsuits crossed in the water, shivering in the cold, before the eyes of the security forces.
"It's great, it's the best of Russian traditions," a Muscovite resident, Ievgueni Goloshchapov, told AFP, with a towel on his shoulder.
In recent years, politicians and diplomats have also plunged into icy waters, such as President Vladimir Putin last year or the US ambassador to Moscow, Jon Huntsman Jr.
In Yakutia, in the far east of Russia, the coldest region of the country, the governor immersed himself in the river Lena, despite the temperature of -42 ° C, according to his office.
Although the tradition arouses great enthusiasm, some leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church emphasize that it has nothing canonical about it.
"External rituals during large religious festivals tend to be transformed into national traditions and the original meaning of the party is forgotten," said Bishop Panteleimon, an eminent bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church. "I never bathe in an ice hole," he told the Izvestia newspaper.