Orthodox Christians Dive into Ice-Cold Waters to Celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany

Jan. 6 is the day that Orthodox Christians around the world celebrate the Epiphany, a day commemorating the baptism of Jesus Christ.

Orthodox Christians in Eastern Europe leapt into freezing cold waters to retrieve crucifixes as part of the celebration of the Epiphany. In Istanbul, tourists from Greece attended a ceremony called the Blessing of the Waters, according to The Associated Press.

A group of about 20 worshipers dived into the freezing waters of the Golden Horn inlet to recover a wooden cross thrown by Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew I, spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians around the world.

Men in Bulgaria also jumped into rivers and lakes to recover crucifixes thrown by priests. The old ritual, which marks the Feast of Epiphany, holds a tradition that the person who retrieves a cross will be freed from evil spirits that may have troubled him.

In the city of Kalofer, Bulgaria, hundreds of men dressed in traditional robes dove into the Tundza River with national flags. They danced to music for almost an hour, led by the town's mayor, a bass drummer and bagpipes, while pushing their way through chunks of ice in the freezing water.

In Tarpon Springs, Fla., the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral started celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany early this morning, according to 10

Organizers set up chairs around the Spring Bayou and a priest blessed the waters after a procession of worshipers arrived. A dove was released symbolizing the Holy Trinity, followed by 60 young men diving into the cold water. The priest tossed a white wooden cross into the water, which wasn't recovered.

After several minutes of confusion, a second cross had be tossed in the water, which was recovered.

The Epiphany is celebrated by Orthodox Christians and is meant to celebrate God revealing Himself to us, in the person of Jesus. Epiphany is celebrated every year on Jan. 6 and it marks the end of the Christmas season.

Not all Christians celebrate the Epiphany the same way. According to a Daily Chronicle report, Jeremy Heilman of the Trinity Lutheran Church in Genoa said Epiphany no longer holds prominence in the Christian faith.

Heilman said that Epiphany tends to get lost in the Christmas story and nativity scenes. However, he maintains that it still teaches the lesson that Christ reveals Himself to people in many ways.

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