Ever heard of the Polar Bear Plunge? Well, in Ukraine they celebrate this event on a whole new level. Its called водокрещение (Vodokreschenie) and is celebrated every January 19th as an Christian Orthodox holiday. The event commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist on the Jordan river.
As a result, the most important ritual of this holiday is the blessing of water which is brought to priests in bottles of all shapes and sizes that many Ukrainians keep for years to repel evil forces in their homes. In addition, it is believed that this blessed water has healing powers and therefore many ceremonies take place on local rivers or lakes into which one can safely jump. The only catch is that most rivers and lakes are iced over at this time of year. If the dip is done correctly, honestly and fully, 3 times, you can expect health and happiness for the rest of the year.
I prepared to experience Vodakreshenya to its full extent this year, despite dubious warnings. However, when we arrived at the river and I realized the majority of my experience would involve a wine and shashleek after party during which I would be standing outside in the sub zero temperatures for an unknown amount of time with long wet hair, I eagerly volunteered to photograph the event instead of participate.
My sitemate, Garrett, wasn’t as easily disuaded as me and even decided the experience might remind him of his Alaskan motherland.
Here is the result of our day’s adventure…
In many Orthodox countries around the world, a cross is thrown into the water and the first swimmer to retrive the cross for the priest will receive a special blessing. Here is a collection of photos from the holiday across the globe…Beautiful and Otherworldly Photos of Orthodox Epiphany
You can see how a traditional Greek Orthodox family celebrates the holiday in Tarpon Springs, Florida HERE.