MOSCOW, January 19. /TASS/. Some 1.8 mln people across Russia took part in the traditional ice swimming events on occasion of Epiphany to celebrate the baptism of Jesus Christ, Russian Interior Ministry’s Spokeswoman Irina Volk said on Friday.
"Overnight to January 19, more than 7,300 church services and mass bathing were held devoted to celebrating Epiphany, and some 1.8 mln people took part in these events," Volk said.
Some 34,000 police personnel ensured security near Orthodox Christian churches and bathing sites. About 2,500 National Guard forces and 11,000 members of people’s militia, Cossacks and private security firms ensured public order.
A poll carried out by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center on January 14 showed that almost every seventh Russian (15%) said they planned to take a dip in the icy waters this year. The ice swimming tradition is becoming more popular among Russians, the pollster said.
"For Russians Epiphany is first of all a church holiday (31%) linked to the well-known tradition of bathing in ice-holes (26%) and evoking positive associations (17%), the survey said. The nation’s leading polling agency conducted the survey based on phone interviews with 1,000 respondents above 18 years of age. The margin of error does not exceed 3.2% at the 95% confidence level.
The ritual dunks in the icy waters take place overnight to January 19 on one of major Orthodox Christian holidays, Epiphany. However, ice swimming is a folk custom rather than a religious ritual.