Russian Orthodox Christians braved freezing temperatures as they plunged into icy water to celebrate the Orthodox Epiphany. Special cross-shaped holes were cut into thick ice covering rivers and lakes, with wooden steps leading into the water. The age-old ritual commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River, known as the Epiphany. The Russian Orthodox Church marks this event annually on 19 January, in the middle of the Russian winter.

Orthodox Christians who use the Julian Calendar [including Russians, Ukrainians, Serbians, Georgians, Copts, Ethiopians and Palestinians] celebrate Epiphany on 19 January, nearly two weeks after it is celebrated by Christians in the rest of the world. Many Russian Orthodox Christians believe that bathing on the Epiphany symbolically washes away their sins. However, others take the plunge simply because they believe a dip in the cold water is good for their health.

Orthodox Epiphany
A man plunges into the icy waters of a frozen lake as part of celebrations for Orthodox Epiphany on the outskirts of Minsk, BelarusVasily Fedosenko/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
A member of the Belarusian Emergencies Ministry clears ice from the surface of a cross-shaped hole cut into a frozen lake on the outskirts of MinskVasily Fedosenko/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
A couple plunge into icy waters during celebrations for the Orthodox Epiphany on the Dnieper river in Kiev, UkraineValentyn Ogirenko/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
A man makes the sign of the cross while standing in ice-covered water in the far eastern city of Vladivostok, RussiaYuri Maltsev/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
A woman makes the sign of the cross after taking a dip in icy waters during celebrations for the Orthodox Epiphany in the Sea of Japan, in the far eastern city of Vladivostok, RussiaYuri Maltsev/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
A man immerses himself in the Sea of Japan in the far eastern city of Vladivostok, RussiaYuri Maltsev/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
A man immerses himself a partially frozen lake during celebrations of the Orthodox Epiphany outside Ryazan, RussiaMaxim Shemetov/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
A man immerses himself in the ice-covered Yenisei River outside Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, where the temperature was about minus 25 degrees Celsius (minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit)Ilya Naymushin/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
A man swims in icy waters of a lake during celebrations of Orthodox Epiphany in Minsk, BelarusVasily Fedosenko/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
People react as they take a dip in a lake during Orthodox Epiphany celebrations in Kiev, UkraineGleb Garanich/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
Priests take part in a religious ceremony during Orthodox Epiphany celebrations in KievGleb Garanich/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
A woman runs out of the frozen Dnieper river in Kiev, UkraineValentyn Ogirenko/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
A man uses a chainsaw to cut a hole in the ice-covered Mana river near the Siberian village of Mansky, with the temperature at about minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit)Ilya Naymushin/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
Icicles cling to wooden handrails as a man immerses himself in the Bolshaya Almatinka river in Almaty, KazakhstanShamil Zhumatov/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
A man holds his smartphone as he immerses himself in the Bolshaya Almatinka river in Almaty, KazakhstanShamil Zhumatov/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
A member of the emergency services carries a child after bathing in the Bolshaya Almatinka river in Almaty, KazakhstanShamil Zhumatov/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
A man crosses himself as he dips into the icy waters of a lake as part of celebrations for Orthodox Epiphany in Minsk, BelarusVasily Fedosenko/Belarus
Orthodox Epiphany
People walk through the snowstorm to immerse themselves in icy waters during celebrations for the Orthodox Epiphany on a frozen lake near the village of Dubrovichi, outside Ryazan, RussiaMaxim Shemetov/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
A man immerses himself in a hole cut into an ice-covered lake near the village of Dubrovichi outside Ryazan, south east of MoscowMaxim Shemetov/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
A man plunges into freezing water on the eve of the Orthodox Epiphany in Moscow, RussiaSergei Karpukhin/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
A woman reacts as she takes a dip in a font on the eve of the Orthodox Epiphany in central MoscowSergei Karpukhin/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
A priest pours icy water over a woman during celebrations for the Orthodox Epiphany on the frozen Mana river near the village of Mansky, Siberia, RussiaIlya Naymushin/Reuters
Orthodox Epiphany
An Orthodox believer dips into icy water in central MoscowVasily Maximov/AFP
Orthodox Epiphany
A girl heads down iced-over stairs on her way to plunge into cold water in MoscowVasily Maximov/AFP
Orthodox Epiphany
Orthodox believers dip into icy water during the celebration of the Epiphany in MoscowKirill Kudryavtsev/AFP
Orthodox Epiphany
Men wait in line to dive into the Tura River on Epiphany night in Tyumen, SiberiaAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Orthodox Epiphany
Men wait to jump into the icy water of Tura River on Epiphany night in Tyumen, SiberiaAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images
Orthodox Epiphany
A Russian Orthodox man jumps into the Tura River in Tyumen, SiberiaAlexander Aksakov/Getty Images