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January 20, 2013
Thousands plunge into icy waters for Epiphany

Thousands of Russian Orthodox Church followers plunged Friday and Saturday into icy rivers and ponds across Russia and Belarus to mark the approaching Epiphany, cleansing themselves with water deemed holy for the day. Water that is blessed by a cleric on Epiphany is considered holy and pure until next year's celebration, and is believed to have special powers of protection and healing. The Russian Orthodox Church follows the old Julian calendar, according to which Epiphany falls on Jan.19. Moscow temperatures on Saturday night dropped to -10 C ( 14 F).

(22 images)




Russian Orthodox believers swim in the icy water on Epiphany at a pond in at a pond in Tyarlevo village outside St.Petersburg, Russia, early Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. The temperature in St.Petersburg was -26C ( -14.8 F). AP / Dmitry Lovetsky
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Russian Orthodox believers swim in the icy water on Epiphany at a pond in Tyarlevo village outside St.Petersburg, Russia, early Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. AP / Dmitry Lovetsky
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Russian Orthodox believers swim in the icy water on Epiphany at a pond in town of Pushkin outside St.Petersburg, Russia, early Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. The temperature in St.Petersburg was -26C ( -14.8 F). AP / Dmitry Lovetsky
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Russian believers swim in the icy water on Epiphany at a pond in at a pond in town of Pushkin outside St.Petersburg, Russia, early Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. AP / Dmitry Lovetsky
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Rescue workers control Russian Orthodox believers swimming in the icy water on Epiphany at a pond in town of Pushkin outside St.Petersburg, Russia, early Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. AP / Dmitry Lovetsky
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People stand in a queue to the bath of the ice cold water as they take the bath in the ice hole of the pound in the Kolomenskoye park on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. AP / Mikhail Metzel
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People gather around the bath of the ice cold water as they take the bath in the ice hole of the pound in the Kolomenskoye park on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. AP / Mikhail Metzel
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People gather around the bath of the ice cold water as they take the bath in the ice hole of the pound in the Kolomenskoye park on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. AP / Mikhail Metzel
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People stand in a queue to the bath of the ice cold water as they take the bath in the ice hole of the pound in the Kolomenskoye park on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. AP / Mikhail Metzel
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A woman walks away after taking a bath in ice cold water, in an ice hole of the pond, in the Kolomenskoye park on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. AP / Mikhail Metzel
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A couple walk out of the ice cold water of the Moskva River after taking a bath, in the Kolomenskoye park on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. AP / Mikhail Metzel
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A man crosses himself while bathing in the ice cold water after plunging into it to mark Epiphany in St.Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. The temperature in St.Petersburg was -22C ( -7.6 ° F). AP / Dmitry Lovetsky
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A man plunges in the ice cold water to mark Epiphany, in St.Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. The temperature in St. Petersburg is -22C ( -7.6 ° F). AP / Dmitry Lovetsky
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A man crosses himself as he bathes in the ice hole of a pond in the Kolomenskoye park on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. AP / Mikhail Metzel
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A man crosses himself while bathing in the ice cold water of the Moskva River, in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. Thousands of Russian Orthodox Church followers on Friday and Saturday will plunge into icy rivers and ponds across the country to mark the upcoming Epiphany, cleansing themselves with water deemed holy for the day. AP / Mikhail Metzel
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A woman crosses herself while bathing in the ice cold water of the Moskva River, in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. AP / Mikhail Metzel
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An Orthodox priests conduct a service at the ice hole of a lake on the eve of Russian Orthodox Epiphany in Minsk, Belarus, late Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. Orthodox Church believers celebrate Epiphany on Jan. 19. AP / Sergei Grits
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A man swims in the ice cold water of a lake on the eve of Russian Orthodox Epiphany in Minsk, Belarus, late Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. Orthodox Church believers celebrate Epiphany on Jan. 19. AP / Sergei Grits
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An Orthodox priest conducts a service at the ice hole of a lake to mark Epiphany in Minsk, Belarus, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. AP / Sergei Grits
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An Orthodox priest conducts a service at the ice hole of a lake to mark Epiphany in Minsk, Belarus, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. AP / Sergei Grits
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Orthodox believers wash faces with water from the hole after the consecration by its priest to mark Epiphany in Minsk, Belarus, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. AP / Sergei Grits
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A man reacts in the ice cold water after plunging into it to mark Epiphany in Minsk, Belarus, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. AP / Sergei Grits

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