Russian Orthodox believers take icy plunge on Epiphany day

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A priest is escorted by an assistant during a water blessing ceremony on Orthodox Epiphany Day in the village of Velikoye, Yaroslavl region, Russia January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
People attend a religious service during a water blessing ceremony on Orthodox Epiphany Day in the village of Velikoye, Yaroslavl region, Russia January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
A man during Epiphany bathing in St.Petersburg, on January 19, 2017. Annually following the Julian Calendar many of true believers take part in spirit strengthening bathing during Epiphany day celebration. (Photo by Igor Russak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A man during Epiphany bathing in St.Petersburg, on January 19, 2017. Annually following the Julian Calendar many of true believers take part in spirit strengthening bathing during Epiphany day celebration. (Photo by Igor Russak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A Russian Orthodox believer bathes in the icy water on Epiphany in Pushkin city, near Sant Petersburg, Russia on 19 January 2017. 2017 (Photo by Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A Russian Orthodox believer bathes in the icy water on Epiphany in Pushkin city, near Sant Petersburg, Russia on 19 January 2017. 2017 (Photo by Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A Russian Orthodox believer bathes in the icy water on Epiphany in Pushkin city, near Sant Petersburg, Russia on 19 January 2017. 2017 (Photo by Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
OMSK REGION, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19, 2017: Father Sergius, senior priest at the Church of St Seraphim of Sarov, blesses the waters of the Uy River during Epiphany celebrations. In Eastern Christianity, the feast of Epiphany commemorates the Baptism of Jesus. The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the holiday according to the Julian calendar. Dmitry Feoktistov/TASS (Photo by Dmitry Feoktistov\TASS via Getty Images)
OMSK REGION, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19, 2017: Father Sergius, senior priest at the Church of St Seraphim of Sarov, blesses the waters of the Uy River during Epiphany celebrations. In Eastern Christianity, the feast of Epiphany commemorates the Baptism of Jesus. The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the holiday according to the Julian calendar. Dmitry Feoktistov/TASS (Photo by Dmitry Feoktistov\TASS via Getty Images)
OMSK REGION, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19, 2017: Father Sergius, senior priest at the Church of St Seraphim of Sarov, blesses the waters of the Uy River during Epiphany celebrations. In Eastern Christianity, the feast of Epiphany commemorates the Baptism of Jesus. The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the holiday according to the Julian calendar. Dmitry Feoktistov/TASS (Photo by Dmitry Feoktistov\TASS via Getty Images)
OMSK REGION, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19, 2017: Father Sergius, senior priest at the Church of St Seraphim of Sarov, blesses the waters of the Uy River during Epiphany celebrations. In Eastern Christianity, the feast of Epiphany commemorates the Baptism of Jesus. The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the holiday according to the Julian calendar. Dmitry Feoktistov/TASS (Photo by Dmitry Feoktistov\TASS via Getty Images)
OMSK REGION, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19, 2017: Believers hold religious icons as they stand by a cross-shaped ice hole at a ceremony to bless the waters of the Uy River during Epiphany celebrations. In Eastern Christianity, the feast of Epiphany commemorates the Baptism of Jesus. The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the holiday according to the Julian calendar. Dmitry Feoktistov/TASS (Photo by Dmitry Feoktistov\TASS via Getty Images)
Children slide down a slope during Orthodox Epiphany celebrations, with domes of the Church of the Nativity seen in the background, in the village of Velikoye, Yaroslavl region, Russia January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
A priest is helped by an assistant as he immerses a cross into an ice hole in a pond during Orthodox Epiphany celebrations in the village of Velikoye, Yaroslavl region, Russia January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
A man exits the ice-hole after taking a dip in icy water during Orthodox Epiphany celebrations in Yaroslavl, Russia, January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Priest Sergei Ryzhov pushes a man into an ice hole in the frozen Buzim lake during Orthodox Epiphany celebrations, with the air temperature at about minus 18 degrees Celsius (minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit), near the village of Sukhobuzimskoye, north of Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, Russia January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin
A man takes a dip in icy water during Orthodox Epiphany celebrations in Yaroslavl, Russia, January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
A man takes a dip in an ice hole in a pond near the Church of Saint Euphrosyne, the Princess of Moscow, during Orthodox Epiphany celebrations in Moscow, Russia January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
People queue to take a dip in icy water during Orthodox Epiphany celebrations in Yaroslavl, Russia, January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
OMSK REGION, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19, 2017: Residents of the village of Sedelnikovo fill plastic bottles with blessed water from an ice hole on the Uy River during Epiphany celebrations. In Eastern Christianity, the feast of Epiphany commemorates the Baptism of Jesus. The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the holiday according to the Julian calendar. Dmitry Feoktistov/TASS (Photo by Dmitry Feoktistov\TASS via Getty Images)
KHOLMY, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19: (RUSSIA OUT) A boy bathes in the the icy cold water while celebrating the Epiphany church holiday in the village Kholmy on January 19, 2017, 50 km. West of Moscow, Russia. The air temperature is - 6 degrees celsius (21F). Russian Orthodox belivers enter in blessed water of a local river or lake imitating baptizing in Jordan river. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
KHOLMY, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19: (RUSSIA OUT) A boy bathes in the the icy cold water while celebrating the Epiphany church holiday in the village Kholmy on January 19, 2017, 50 km. West of Moscow, Russia. The air temperature is - 6 degrees celsius (21F). Russian Orthodox belivers enter in blessed water of a local river or lake imitating baptizing in Jordan river. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
A boy takes a dip in icy waters of the Trubezh river during Orthodox Epiphany celebrations, with the Forty Martyrs' Church seen in the background, in the town of Pereslavl-Zalessky, Yaroslavl region, Russia January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
KHOLMY, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19: (RUSSIA OUT) A man bathes in the icy cold water while celebrating the Epiphany church holiday in the village Kholmy on January 19, 2017, 50 km west of Moscow, Russia. The air temperature is - 6 degrees celsius (21F). Russian Orthodox believers enter into the blessed water of a local river or lake imitating baptizing in Jordan river. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
KHOLMY, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19: (RUSSIA OUT) A woman crosses herself in the icy cold water while celebrating the Epiphany church holiday in the village Kholmy on January 19, 2017, 50 km west of Moscow, Russia. The air temperature is - 6 degrees celsius (21F). Russian Orthodox believers enter into the blessed water of a local river or lake imitating baptizing in Jordan river. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
KHOLMY, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19: (RUSSIA OUT) A boy jumps into the icy cold water while celebrating the Epiphany church holiday in the village Kholmy on January 19, 2017, 50 km west of Moscow, Russia. The air temperature is - 6 degrees celsius (21F). Russian Orthodox believers enter into the blessed water of a local river or lake imitating baptizing in Jordan river. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
KHOLMY, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19: (RUSSIA OUT) A man bathes in the icy cold water while celebrating the Epiphany church holiday in the village Kholmy on January 19, 2017, 50 km west of Moscow, Russia. The air temperature is - 6 degrees celsius (21F). Russian Orthodox believers enter into the blessed water of a local river or lake imitating baptizing in Jordan river. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
KHOLMY, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19: (RUSSIA OUT) A Russian Orthodox priest blesses the water while celebrating the Epiphany church holiday in the village Kholmy on January 19, 2017, 50 km west of Moscow, Russia. The air temperature is - 6 degrees celsius (21F). Russian Orthodox believers enter into the blessed water of a local river or lake imitating baptizing in Jordan river. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
KHOLMY, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19: (RUSSIA OUT) A boy bathes in the the icy cold water while celebrating the Epiphany church holiday in the village Kholmy on January 19, 2017, 50 km west of Moscow, Russia. The air temperature is - 6 degrees celsius (21F). Russian Orthodox believers enter into the blessed water of a local river or lake imitating baptizing in Jordan river. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
KHOLMY, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19: (RUSSIA OUT) A lady jumps into the icy cold water while celebrating the Epiphany church holiday in the village Kholmy on January 19, 2017, 50 km west of Moscow, Russia. The air temperature is - 6 degrees celsius (21F). Russian Orthodox believers enter into the blessed water of a local river or lake imitating baptizing in Jordan river. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
KHOLMY, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19: (RUSSIA OUT) A Russian Orthodox and his son are seen celebrating the Epiphany church holiday in the village Kholmy on January 19, 2017, 50 km west of Moscow, Russia. The air temperature is - 6 degrees celsius (21F). Russian Orthodox believers enter into the blessed water of a local river or lake imitating baptizing in Jordan river. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
KHOLMY, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19: (RUSSIA OUT) A boy bathes in the the icy cold water while celebrating the Epiphany church holiday in the village Kholmy on January 19, 2017, 50 km. West of Moscow, Russia. The air temperature is - 6 degrees celsius (21F). Russian Orthodox belivers enter in blessed water of a local river or lake imitating baptizing in Jordan river. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
KHOLMY, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19: (RUSSIA OUT) A Russian Orthodox helps his son bath in an icy cold water while celebrating the Epiphany church holiday in the village Kholmy on January 19, 2017, 50 km west of Moscow, Russia. The air temperature is - 6 degrees celsius (21F). Russian Orthodox believers enter into the blessed water of a local river or lake imitating baptizing in Jordan river. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
KHOLMY, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19: (RUSSIA OUT) A boy bathes in the the icy cold water while celebrating the Epiphany church holiday in the village Kholmy on January 19, 2017, 50 km. West of Moscow, Russia. The air temperature is - 6 degrees celsius (21F). Russian Orthodox belivers enter in blessed water of a local river or lake imitating baptizing in Jordan river. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
KHOLMY, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19: (RUSSIA OUT) A boy bathes in the the icy cold water while celebrating the Epiphany church holiday in the village Kholmy on January 19, 2017, 50 km. West of Moscow, Russia. The air temperature is - 6 degrees celsius (21F). Russian Orthodox belivers enter in blessed water of a local river or lake imitating baptizing in Jordan river. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
KHOLMY, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19: (RUSSIA OUT) A girl bathes in the icy cold water while celebrating the Epiphany church holiday in the village Kholmy on January 19, 2017, 50 km. West of Moscow, Russia. The air temperature is - 6 degrees celsius (21F). Russian Orthodox belivers enter in blessed water of a local river or lake imitating baptizing in Jordan river. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
KHOLMY, RUSSIA - JANUARY 19: (RUSSIA OUT) A boy bathes in the the icy cold water while celebrating the Epiphany church holiday in the village Kholmy on January 19, 2017, 50 km. West of Moscow, Russia. The air temperature is - 6 degrees celsius (21F). Russian Orthodox belivers enter in blessed water of a local river or lake imitating baptizing in Jordan river. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
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MOSCOW, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of Russian Orthodox believers took a plunge into sub-zero waters across Europe on Thursday to wash off their sins as part of Epiphany feast day celebrations.

The annual Jan. 19 commemoration of the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River saw more than 150,000 people dip into several ice holes across Moscow, Tass news agency said.

Temperatures were around minus nine degrees Celsius (16F) in the Russian capital, and one child screamed as he hit the frigid water while other people reached hurriedly for towels after braving the pools.

"I advise everybody to do this. This is cool, feels like you are reborn," Moscow resident Elena said after her plunge.

Similar icy dips took place around the country and in Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus, while swimmers in Serbia and Bosnia marked the feast day by taking part in races in freezing waters.

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