MOSCOW, Jan 19, 2016:

Thousands of Russians have taken a dip in icy waters to celebrate Epiphany, a major holiday in Orthodox Christianity marking the birth and baptism of Jesus Christ.

Water blessed by a priest on the Epiphany week in Orthodox tradition is considered holy and pure, and bathing is believed to have healing powers.

In Moscow, authorities set up 60 official bathing sites for believers for Monday night, from open air pools to holes in the ponds. Temperatures in Moscow were minus 10 Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) overnight.

For some Russians this holiday season, Epiphany bathing was a more relaxed experience. The defense ministry on Monday night organised celebrations for the troops serving at Russia’s military base in Syria by putting up an inflated rubber pool.

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