Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

29 April 2014. The Easter Feast is STILL Rollin’ On!

00 Easter Foods. 28.04.14


The Easter Feast is still rollin’ on! It’s gonna go on STRONG until Pentecost… 8 June. That is, we have all of May and the first week of June as a festive season. Feast ye BOUNTEOUSLY. We’re Christians… that’s what we do!


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Saturday, 19 January 2013

More Than 82,000 Muscovites Took the Epiphany Plunge in Icy Water

00 Russia. Moscow. Epiphany. 19.01.13


A spokesman for the Moscow division of the MChS said early Saturday that more than 82,000 Muscovites immersed themselves in icy cold water to mark Epiphany, as still air temperature in the Russian capital stood at -13 degrees (+8.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Epiphany, also known as Theophany, is one of the Twelve Great Feasts, marking the baptism of Jesus Christ by St John the Baptist in the River Jordan at the beginning of His ministry. The Orthodox Church celebrates the holiday on 19 January, in line with the Julian calendar. Honouring an old Russian tradition, cross-shaped holes are cut into the ice covering lakes and rivers, and believers plunge into the water, typically, three times, in honour of the Holy Trinity, at around midnight, often after an attending priest says prayers.

On Saturday, police sources told us that they dispatched about 3,500 personnel to maintain order overnight, and they said that no one reported any major incidents. More than 50 Epiphany immersion sites were set up across Moscow, where Orthodox priests blessed the waters during the night, with 260 MChS first responders monitoring the safety at the locations.

A particular feature of the feast is the rite of the Great Blessing of the Waters, performed in Orthodox churches twice… on 18 January, on the eve of the feast, and on Epiphany proper, after Divine Liturgy. Then, the clergy give the holy water to the believers, who store it for long periods and use it to cure illnesses and bless themselves or things and premises around them. Some people think that any water… even from the taps on the kitchen sink… poured or bottled on Epiphany becomes holy.

19 January 2013




Orthodox Believers Celebrate Epiphany: God’s Grace for Body and Soul

00 Russia. Vladimir Oblast. Epiphany. 19.01.13


On 19 January, the Orthodox Church celebrates Epiphany… the day when St John the Baptist baptised Jesus Christ in the River Jordan. Epiphany is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of Orthodox Christianity. On this day, a ceremony sanctifying water takes place in every Orthodox church in Russia. However, tradition has it that on Epiphany Eve, all the water in the world, whether sanctified in a church or not, acquires a special miraculous quality. Immersing in water on Epiphany Eve purifies the soul and strengthens the body. Although it is usually rather cold in Russia on Epiphany, this doesn’t stop many Russians from paying tribute to the old tradition to immerse in water in an open-air hole on Epiphany Eve. Tens of thousands of Russians in the night from Friday to Saturday carried out the rite of a three-fold immersion in icy water as Orthodox believers celebrated Epiphany.

For this ceremony, ice-holes in the form of a cross are made on rivers, lakes, and ponds. In Russia, such an ice-hole is called a Iordan, in reference to River Jordan where Jesus was baptised. This year, formal immersions took place in 40 places in Moscow alone on Epiphany Eve, with one of them on Red Square. Usually, there aren’t many people on Red Square at 22.00… however, this night, the square was crowded. Because of the biting cold, whilst the priest was performing the ceremony of sanctifying the water in two large tanks, the water already covered with ice… but this didn’t stop many believers from plunging into it.

Pavel, a young man from Transnistria, hadn’t initially planned to spend the night in Moscow. Nevertheless, as circumstances landed him in the Russian capital, he decided to take part in Epiphany immersion in Moscow, as he always does in his home town, as he didn’t want to miss it, saying to our VOR correspondent, “For the last seven years, I’ve always immersed myself on Epiphany Eve. I don’t belong to a walrus club, for me, immersion on Epiphany is a matter of faith in Christ, not sport. Seven years ago, when I was in Siberia, friends persuaded me to immerse in the Ob River on Epiphany. Since then, I immerse on Epiphany every year… each time when I do it, I have a feeling of being born again. I’m not afraid of catching cold whilst immersing on Epiphany Eve… I believe that real faith makes a person strong enough to resist any cold”.

Those waiting to immerse have formed a long queue. If Pavel, as he said, has immersed on Epiphany Eve for the seventh time already, obviously, many people in the queue are taking part in this ceremony for the first time… one can distinguished them by the special look in their eyes. Tatyana Gavrilova said, “I learnt that Epiphany ceremonies were taking place on Red Square only an hour ago, and I immediately realised that I had to come here. This is the first time that I took part in this ceremony ever, and I feel myself a bit unprepared for this, I find it a little scary. I really hope that it’ll do me good. I haven’t prepared for this; I didn’t read any religious books to understand the essence of Christian sacraments well enough. Yet, I’m firmly convinced that Epiphany immersion is healthy both for body and soul”.

Besides Muscovites, one could see foreigners in this queue as well, although none of them dared to immerse in the water. They only came to watch Russians immerse in icy water on a cold night, hoping to learn more about the mysterious Russian soul. Emma from Istanbul said, “I’ve lived in Russia for two years, but this is the first time that I’ve come to this unusual event. I’ve heard that there’s a holiday in Russia when people immerse themselves in the water on a very cold night, but this is the first time that I’ll see it with my own eyes. This is very interesting, but I must confess that I’m not bold enough to do it myself!”

An ambulance stood nearby, but, fortunately, very few people needed help or first aid from either doctors or paramedics. Yet, it’s true that simple faith and enthusiasm help even not very well-prepared people not to catch cold or drown. Aleksei said, “This is the first time that I immersed on Epiphany, and it’s really an awesome indescribable experience! I feel great! It’s like being born again! People with whom I stood in the queue and who already immersed in the holy water said that that they’d like to do it again. I felt like all my sins were washed away. Now, I’ll do this every Epiphany! I thought about doing this for a long time, and I’m glad that I finally went out and did it”

Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev, the First Hierarch of the Local Church of Moscow and all the Russias explained the essence of this holiday, “The Great Blessing of the Waters is evidence that we’ve opened the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven through the birth, life, suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. By being baptised in the waters of River Jordan, God the Son sanctified not only the element of water, but the entire physical world as well. After God the Son’s incarnation on Earth, the entire physical world received the possibility to unite with God’s Nature. When we sanctify water in churches on Epiphany, water remains water. It doesn’t change its chemical structure; it doesn’t acquire new physical qualities, but it becomes full of divine grace. It acquires miraculous power which helps people overcome sickness, passions, and suffering, it helps them to change the world around us”.

Tradition tells us that the water sanctified in churches on Epiphany preserves its miraculous qualities till the next Epiphany. One may use it to bless a residential flat or an office. Some recommend that one should drink this water in small amounts every morning or every night before going to bed. However, the main thing one should do on Epiphany isn’t to go to church to get sanctified water or to immerse in an ice-hole, but to pray to God. After all, divine grace given to us through prayer is what allows holy water to heal people from any disease, physical or spiritual.

19 January 2013

Milena Faustova

Voice of Russia World Service



Click here for a VOR photo gallery on Epiphany

Click here for a RIA-Novosti photo gallery on Epiphany

Editor’s aside:

The babas take it in stride… the strong men’s teeth chatter… is God telling us something?


19 January 2013. RIA-Novsti Infographics. Epiphany Ice-Water Pool

00 RIA-Novsti Infographics. Epiphany Ice-Water Pool. 2013


On 19 January, Orthodox believers celebrate one of the Twelve Great Feasts… Epiphany (Theophany). According to ancient tradition, which spread to Russia with Christianity in 988, on the night of 19 January, many believers, despite the cold, would dip in a hole cut into the ice. According to tradition, when the Lord Christ was baptised in the River Jordan, all of God’s creation shared in His holiness; on this day, all the waters in the universe are sanctified.

In Russia, the Great Blessing of the Waters was done on the Eve of Epiphany, and in day of the feast itself was celebrated with great solemnity, accompanied by popular rejoicing. On this day, young and old alike immersed themselves “in the Jordan”, that is, in whatever river or lake was available, where, despite the extreme cold and deep snow, they did the ritual three complete immersions into the water. The Church upholds this tradition of Epiphany immersions. On Epiphany Eve, after services, there’s a solemn procession to the Iordan (a cross-shaped hole in the ice), the waters are blessed, and the believers immerse themselves in the water. There are no hard-and-fast rules on how to perform the immersions. However, usually, believers perform a triple immersion in water over their heads. As they do so, just as in baptism, the believers say, “In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit!” In modern Russia, at most Iordans throughout the country, doctors and MChS first responders are onsite to take care of any untoward occurrences or emergencies.

18 January 2013



Editor’s Note:

How do you wanna bet that Mad Vlad Zhirinovsky jumped into Bottomless Lake wearing ridiculous trunks yet again? What’s that you say? Have I done it? Am I Russian? Sure… but not this year… I’ll have a mug of nice warm tea with a shot of something good in it… as should you.

с Праздником!


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