Bathing in Ice-Hole on Epiphany

Foreigners are amazed with Russians who during freezing weather on Epiphany take a dip … in an ice-hole.

The tradition of bathing in an ice-hole on Epiphany came about long time ago. It is believed that this rite emerged after the Baptism of Russia in 988.

When People Swim in an Ice-Hole

Bathing in ice-hole in Russia is customary ​​on the night of January 19. The day before, orthodox Christians celebrate the Epiphany Eve. It is believed that the water becomes holy on January 19.

Preparing for the Rite

According to church rules, every Christian before a dip in an ice-hole must come to church service. Swimming in an ice-hole is considered optional. The decision to swim or not every person makes for himself, based on their health. In most Russian cities the places for ice swimming are especially prepared in advance.


Swimmer right in the Neva river (Saint Petersburg, about -20 degrees Celsius / -4 degrees Fahrenheit)

What People Expect from Dipping in an Ice-Hole

Traditionally it is believed that dipping in an ice-hole on Epiphany helps cleansing the body and the spirit, relieves of sins. Some people swim in ice-hole to support Russian traditions and become healthier. If you follow the safety rules, then ice swimming can actually be beneficial to your health.

What Ice Swimming Entails

Swimming in an ice-hole on Epiphany is dipping in water three times. Christians must submerge while praying. In olden Russia, it was believed that ice swimming got you rid of all diseases. Before dipping you need to warm up your muscles a little. And you typically don’t stay in water for more than a minute.

Ice swimming reminds of another favorite Russian tradition: taking a steam bath and then scrubbing your body with snow or diving into icy water. Every year the number of people who decided to take a dip in an ice-hole on Epiphany is growing.

Those who uphold this tradition believe that dipping in ice water on Epiphany helps to get rid of many diseases and recharge your batteries. It is difficult to know with certainty, but every year more and more people are trying to follow this tradition.

To discover Russia with Alexey Gureev

Photo 1 – фотобанк Лори

Photo 2 – by Alexey Gureev

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