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MOSCOW, January 18 (Itar-Tass) – More than 2,000 Russians joined the traditional popular rite of mass bathing in water-holes on ice-shielded rivers, lakes and ponds in and around Moscow Friday, as the Russian Orthodox Church was preparing to celebrate the feast of Epiphany, more commonly known in Eastern Christian Churches as the feast of Baptism of Our Lord.
Moscow City branch of the Ministry for Emergency Situations and Civil Defense /EMERCOM/ said some 2,300 had taken traditional three plunges into the icy water by 22:00 hours.
All in all, 56 water-holes and open spaces have been cut in the ice-shields of various water reservoirs.
The participants’ safety and security is assured by EMERCOM rescue workers together with policemen and emergency medics.
“EMERCOM’s Moscow City branch has dispatched 436 staff members to assist the safe execution of the traditional rite,” a spokesman told Itar-Tass.
Special tents have been put up at the sites of mass bathing to offer hot tea to people getting out of the water-holes.
Water clearings that are cut out in the ice in the run-up to the feast of Baptism of Our Lord are known in Russia as the ‘jordans’ – a word echoing the fact that Jesus took baptism from St John for Forerunner in the waters of the river Jordan.
Russian Orthodox Church, the liturgical cycle of which is based on the Julian calendar, celebrates the feast of Epiphany January 19, or two weeks after the Western Christians.