Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blessing of the Water

Today is Epiphany or Theophany in the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Church (January 6th on the Julian Calendar falls on January 19th on the Gregorian Calendar).  Beginning at midnight last night, many believers took plunges into icy water to cleanse their sins of the previous year and experience a sense of renewal.  Cross shaped holes are cut in the ice and the water is blessed by the priests prior to people taking the plunge. Pictures from several countries are HERE and HERE.

Tanya and I went to the local well where the community get their drinking water and pulled out two larges jugs of water which we will use for drinking and cooking over the next little while.  The reason is that many people, Tanya included, believe that all water is blessed or renewed this day. 

The following is lifted straight from Wikipedia;

Russia and Ukraine

The Epiphany, celebrated in Russia and Ukraine on January 19, marks the baptism of Jesus in the Orthodox Church. Believing that on this day water becomes holy and is imbued with special powers, Russians and Ukrainians cut holes in the ice of lakes and rivers, often in the shape of the cross, to bathe in the freezing water.[76] Participants in the ritual may dip themselves three times under the water, honoring the Holy Trinity, to symbolically wash away their sins from the past year, and to experience a sense of spiritual rebirth. Orthodox priests are on hand to bless the water, and rescuers are on hand to monitor the safety of the swimmers in the ice-cold water. Other less intrepid Russians may limit their participation in the Epiphany rites to those conducted inside churches, where priests perform the Great Blessing of Waters, both on Epiphany Eve and Epiphany (Theophany) proper. The water is then distributed to attendees who may store it to use in times of illness, to bless themselves, family members, and their homes, or to drink. Some Russians and Ukrainians think any water - even from the taps on the kitchen sink - poured or bottled on Epiphany becomes holy water, since all the water in the world is blessed this day. In the more mild climate of the southern city of Sochi meanwhile, where air and water temperatures both hover in the low to mid 10 degree Celsius range in January, thousands of people jump into the Black Sea at midnight each year on Epiphany and begin to swim in celebration of the feast.[77]


  1. Interesting. I am sure for the brave ones that jump in the icy water it would be refreshing for body and soul. I would more likely be with the ones who observe the day indoors.

  2. Important festival, it appears, with Biblical and cultural significance.

    Thanks for the note.

  3. Nice tradition, blessing the water. But taking a plunge into icy waters? I can find less-traumatic ways to achieve refreshment. ;)

  4. Tanya's niece did the icy swim. It is her personality to do so.
    I am like my brother in law Valerie. Luda said he took a dive onto the couch.

  5. Considering much of the worlds' water is non potable this just may be a blessing.

  6. I spent three years as a school principal in a Russian Orthodox Native village in interior Alaska. The services were in Yup'ik; and as the school was involved in every aspect of the village the religion was part of the rich cultural experience my wife and I encountered.

    As you might know from my blog, I am not religious - but the religion enriched that village and was a positive influence.
    the Ol'Buzzard


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