An estimated two million Russians took a dip in icy waters Monday to celebrate Epiphany, a major holiday in Orthodox Christianity marking the birth and baptism of Jesus.
Water blessed by a priest on the Epiphany week in Orthodox tradition is considered holy and pure, and bathing is believed to have healing powers.
In Moscow, authorities set up 60 official bathing sites for believers Monday night, from open air pools to holes in the ponds. Temperatures in Moscow were –10 C overnight.
Three times into the icy water cleanses the soul.
One each for the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
The water is sanctified and purified through prayer before it's considered holy and fit for immersion.
Russia has a growing number of people who say they are believers.
Three young Russians come to the Epiphany ritual for the first time.
Holy water is kept at home for drinking and purifying the soul throughout the coming year.
Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church blesses a congregation.
Making their way to the river …
Russian rescue personnel help people into the water.