Holy bottled water and a dip in icy water
The Epiphany, or the baptism of Christ is celebrated throughout Russia this weekend, from 19th to 21st January. Russian Orthodox Christians go to church and fill up huge bottles of water, as this is their opportunity to get holy water. Another tradition is also to cut out cross-shaped holes in the ice, get a priest to bless the water and take an ice-cold dip. This ceremony will be performed throughout the country all weekend and, of course, also in Kazan.
For me, it’s not about religion or the baptism of Christ. I respect all religions and I think religious traditions and ceremonies are very interesting. However, for me it’s about challenging myself and experiencing things I will never forget. I have always liked the idea of winter bathing, but at the same time I have always found an excuse not to actually try it. So why not start in Russia on a beautiful January day with -17 degrees celsius. Here is the evidence.
The worst about the whole thing was to stand and wait for an hour in the queue to get down to the lake. For safety reasons, only a certain number of people are allowed to go down to the lake at a time. Even with a shirt, a sweater, pants, a warm winter jacket, warm wool socks, winter boots, hat and gloves, it became really cold when you do not move very much and just queue for an entire hour. We shifted with some of the other people in the queue to go inside the church and warm up a bit.
When it finally became our turn to go down to the lake, we were jumping around to warm up our feet while waiting for a few minutes for a free changing box.
From here everything went really fast. We took off our clothes very fast and hurried out to the pool on bare feet. I went straight into the water. As soon as your body is completely under water, you feel a burning sensation throughout your entire body and you do not think it’s cold at all. It feels great and for the rest of the day the body is completely relaxed. We quickly got dressed and went straight to have a hot cup of tea and glühwein to celebrate today’s great experience!