Russian President Vladimir Putin stripped down to his bathing trunks and immersed himself in a frozen lake to celebrate Epiphany, a major holiday in Orthodox Christianity marking the baptism of Jesus.

The 65-year-old leader walked onto the ice covering Lake Seliger, about 400 km (250 miles) north of Moscow, dressed in a sheepskin coat and felt boots. After removing his coat and boots he walked down a set of wooden steps into a hole in the ice and dunked himself into the icy waters, crossing himself as he did so. Air temperatures at the time were around six degrees Celsius below zero (21 degrees Fahrenheit).

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the president had dipped in icy waters on the Epiphany before, but this was the first time he's done so in public.

In Orthodox tradition, water blessed by a priest during Epiphany week is considered holy and pure, and believers attribute healing powers to it.

Authorities set up bathing sites for believers all over Russia, including some areas in Siberia where temperatures dipped below -30 C (-22 F).

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.

IBTimes UK presents photos of Orthodox Epiphany celebrations.