Epiphany rituals cleanse Orthodox faithfuls in Eastern Europe - Bacau
Orthodox Christians in Romania and Ukraine celebrate the baptism of Jesus by cleansing themselves with sacred water. The holiday is known as the 'Epiphany'.
Epiphany (Russian: Крещение) is the celebration of the baptism of Jesus Christ. The holiday holds great importance and tradition in the Eastern and Greek Orthodox churches. It falls on Jan 6 according to the Roman calendar, and Jan 19 on the Eastern Calendar.
On Epiphany, the church sanctifies water from a natural source, such as a spring. Orthodox Christians have a long-standing tradition to bring home this holy water, which is believed to possess curable properties. Crowds can become very aggressive when competing for the limited supply. Some Russians and Ukrainians think any water - even from the taps on the kitchen sink - poured or bottled on Epiphany becomes holy water, since all the water in the world is blessed this day and is imbued with special powers,.
The Priest can also bless a body of water, such as a lake or river. Russians and Ukrainians cut holes in the ice of lakes and rivers, often in the shape of the cross, to bathe in the freezing water. Participants in the ritual may dip themselves three times under the water, honoring the Holy Trinity, to symbolically wash away their sins from the past year, and to experience a sense of spiritual rebirth.