Icy plunge on Epiphany

The first traditional Russian Epiphany ablution was held in Kirkenes last weekend. Photo: Trude Pettersen

The Russian Orthodox holiday of Epiphany has for the first time been celebrated in Kirkenes with a traditional plunge into ice cold water that has been blessed.


15 persons braved blizzard and biting wind to have their sins washed away.

On January 19 the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the baptism of Christ – one of the most important religious holidays in Russia. The tradition to make a hole in the ice and dive into lakes and rivers has gained great success in Russian in the years since the break-up if the Soviet Union.

- A dream come true
-To be able to bath in blessed water on Epiphany here in Kirkenes is a dream come true, says Inna Tkachuk, who comes from Russia but lives in Kirkenes. I used to do this every year when I lived in Russia, but not that often after I moved to Norway.

To take a bath in ice cold water is very good for you, Inna explains. – Of course it gives the body instant stress, but afterwards it feels very good. Ice bathing stimulates the organism and improves the immune system. The spiritual side of bathing on this particular day is also important for Inna.  – You feel extra warm afterwards; it gives a special feeling to bath in water that has been blessed by the priest.

Old rituals bless the water
- Normally we will perform the whole ritual of consecration of the water beside the hole in the ice, Father Daniil of the Monastery of Pechenga explains. - But today the weather conditions are so bad that we have decided to perform the first parts of the ritual indoors. The ritual consists of prayers, singing and readings from the Bible.  Afterwards the priests lead a procession out on the frozen lake, where the water is consecrated with prayers and by putting a cross into the water. 

The holy water is considered to have protective and healing powers. People filled up bottles and cans with the holy water to bring back home. – This water has special qualities, one of the participants says after filling her bottle. – I drink it on an empty stomach in the morning, wash my face with it and use it to cleanse my house from evil spirits.