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Russian Christians Celebrate Epiphany With Ice-cold Dip

A man takes a dip in icy waters during Orthodox Epiphany celebrations on the Sea of Japan in Vladivostok, Russia, Jan.19, 2016. Orthodox believers mark Epiphany on January 19 by immersing themselves in icy waters regardless of the weather.

Russian Orthodox Christians in the resort city of Sochi ran into the Black Sea early Tuesday to mark Epiphany.

Abpit 3,000 people gathered at the beach of the Black Sea after attending prayers at the Holy Trinity Cathedral as part of celebrations that see worshippers immersing themselves in water, regardless of the winter weather.

Rushing waves were already striking at the feet of those gathered on the shores of the beach as a priest blessed the water in Sochi. People then shed their clothes before walking into the sea under the night sky, plunging in as they crossed themselves.

The ritual commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River, or the Epiphany, which the Russian Orthodox Church mark on January 19, in the middle of the Russian winter.

Traditionally, Epiphany celebration starts the night before. By bathing on this day, believers symbolically wash off their sins. Many, however, also believe the dip in the cold water is good for their health.

From the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's Far East to the heart of Moscow, every year believers all over the vast nation brace for freezing winter weather to make the holy jump. In Eastern Russia temperatures can plummet below 50 degrees Celsius in some parts of Siberia.

Those taking the plunge in Sochi were among the luckiest as temperatures on Monday reached up to 20 degrees Celsius in the day, with Russian media stating it was a 40 year record high.

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