MOSCOW, January 18 (RIA Novosti) – Drunk people will not be allowed to partake in traditional Epiphany bathing in ice-cold water, the head of Moscow city administration’s national policy and religion department, Yuri Artyukh, said on Friday.
More than 50 Epiphany bathing sites have been set up across Moscow, allowing thousands of people to take part in the traditional ceremony believed to wash away sins and heal illnesses.
“All sites underwent security and sanitary inspections,” Artyukh said. “Drunk people will not be allowed to take part.”
“More than 120,880 people took a dip in 2012, and we are likely to surpass that figure this year,” the official added.
He said rescue and medical teams will be on duty near every bathing site.
The Epiphany, which symbolizes Jesus Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River, is one of the Great Feasts. The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates it on January 19 in line with the Julian calendar.
Honoring an old Russian tradition, cross-shaped holes are cut in ice over lakes and rivers and celebrators plunge into the water – typically three times, in honor of the Holy Trinity – around midnight, often after an attending priest says a prayer. Temperatures in most parts of Russia are presently below freezing, with figures for the Moscow Region ranging from -10 to -15 degrees Celsius.