Epiphany is one of the most important holidays for Orthodox and Greek Catholic Christians. It is celebrated on January 19. This Christian holiday honors Jesus Christ in the river of Jordan. The water is considered to be sacred and unique on this day. It is believed to be able to cure severe diseases.
The history of the fest
According to Evangeline John the Baptist encouraged people to baptize in the Jordan River in order to confess their sins. Despite the fact that Jesus had no sins, and he did not need to be baptized, nevertheless, he wanted to be baptized, and this process from that time is considered to be a sacred one.
When the Savior came out of the water, heaven opened above him, then he heard the voice of God the Father, who called Jesus his son and the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a pigeon.
Traditions on Epiphany
A day before the feast, on January 19, believers keep fasting – they eat nothing till evening, and in the evening they cook some Lenten dishes or meatless ones: dumplings with cabbage, fried fish, buckwheat pancakes, Kutia, ceremonial grain dish with sweet gravy, and the traditional dried fruit drink, called uzvar.
In some western regions of Ukraine on the Epiphany Eve people also put in the corner of the table so called diduch, which is a Ukrainian Christmas decoration made from a sheaf of wheat. It is a symbolic sacrifice taken from the best of the autumn harvest. "Didukh" literally means "the spirit of ancestors".
Water sanctifying – is one of the main traditions on Epiphany. The water is considered to be sacred. People believe that the holy water cures severe diseases. They also sanctify their houses, pets etc. with this water. Bathing in an icy-hole is one of the most popular traditions on this day as well.
In many cities, town and villages across the country priests sanctify water while believers bathe in the icy water. After the church service ends, the solemn processions to the holes take place. After the water is sanctified, people bathe in icy-holes. While bathing a Christian crosses himself and says: “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!”
How to bathe in icy-holes?
No restrict rules to bathe in icy waters exist, although novices should start preparing themselves to Epiphany bathing from summer in order to accustom their organisms to cold water. If you decide to bathe in icy-holes, then you should remember several rules:
- You should prepare your organism to cold temperatures during two weeks before the bathing, for example, you can wipe with wet cold towel and take contrast shower. It is useful to be outside for some time wearing minimum cloth.
- Not all weather is good for bathing in icy waters. The perfect temperature for a novice is from 2 to 5 degrees below zero. You can try to bathe in frosty weather, but 10 degrees below zero could be very dangerous for a first time.
- You should bathe only in special equipped holes near the riverside, even better near rescue stations.
- Eat one hour before bathing, and do not drink alcohol.
- Before bathing it is necessary to warm up your body, for example, you can do a workout or go for a run.
- Wear shoes, which you can easily put off, or woolen socks. The special rubber flip-floppers would do as well.
- Women should not wear open swimsuits, it is better to use close shirts.
- Bathing – is diving in icy water for three times. While bathing a Christian crosses himself and says: “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!”
- It is strictly forbidden to dive head-first. Better not to jump and not to submerge in the water, because the temperature gets lower and a person can get shocked due to cold. It is better to dive neck-dip, in order to avoid reflex narrowing of the brain vessels.
- In order to avoid hypothermia do not stay in the water longer than 10 seconds.
- When you get out of the hole, do not hold on to handrails, instead of this it is better to use a dry towel.
- After bathing you should rub yourself with a dry towel and put on some warm cloth. Remember, too hard rubbing can cause damage to your skin.
- After that it is useful to drink hot tea of berries or fruits.
Where and when to bathe?
Ukrainian local governments equip special places for bathing with everything needed in big cities and small towns and the press informs about that.
In particular, there are made a hole in form of the cross and safe passages to this hole, there also are police officers, lifeguards and a medical brigade.
The process of holy bathing happens either on the night before January 19 or the next day. After the church service ends, the solemn processions to the holes take place. After the water is sanctified, you are free to bathe.