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.