Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

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Fiesta del Bautismo del Señor

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Every year in January the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated; a party that in other countries is not very popular, in Russia it is already a classic popular celebration.

This holiday dates from the very introduction of Christianity in Russia; at the end of the first millennium, and if now it is known throughout the world for being an occasion in which people submerge themselves under almost frozen water, among the ice; In its origins it was celebrated differently.

For those years, on the night of January 18, cross-shaped holes were opened in the ice of rivers and lakes; which were called Jordanians in honor of the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized. When the procession of the church passed through these Jordanians; they stopped and the priest dipped the cross three times while making a prayer. After this, the water of these Jordanians was blessed.

On January 19, Orthodox believers in Russia will celebrate the baptism of the Lord. The party is considered one of the 12 main Christian holidays after Easter. On this day (January 6, old style), the church remembers the baptism of Jesus Christ in the waters of the Jordan River by the prophet John the Baptist.

This event is described in the four Gospels: Matthew, Luke, John and Mark. Initially, the party was called Epiphany. It emerged in memory of the miracle that, according to the Bible, occurred during baptism: the Holy Trinity (God the Son, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit) first appeared to the world. The Holy Spirit descended from heaven on Jesus Christ in the form of a dove and a voice came out that said: “This is my beloved son, in whom I am pleased.”

Holiday history

At first, the first Christians celebrated the Christmas feast and the feast of baptism (Epiphany) on the same day, on January 6. From the fourth century, Christmas and Epiphany began to be celebrated on different dates.
The eve of the party (January 18) is called Epiphany Eve. On this day, a one-day fast is established, during which believers are instructed not to eat until the end of the liturgy and communion with holy water. The main course of the day is overeating. It is made from cereals boiled with honey, nuts or raisins. After the baptism comes the “wedding week” during which you can get married, because you can’t get married on Christmas on an empty stomach and on Christmas after Christmas.

Is it necessary to swim?

The ice holes of the Epiphany are cut in cross-shaped ice, or the Cross is placed nearby. The water in the hole should be blessed. To immerse yourself in that source (also called Jordan, in honor of the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized) follow three times, with the words “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Although this extreme orthodox winter has been incredibly publicized in recent years, the church does not expect such feats from believers: it will not become a saint by bathing in the frost of the Epiphany. Because popular fun has no Christian roots, but pagan ones.

Bathing in the Epiphany ice hole is absolutely optional. In ancient times, there were no baptismal baths. This tradition appeared later and spread in the twentieth century. And suitable only for trained people. For those who have already experienced frequent swimming in cold water at all times of the year. That is to say, they must be sports people, in good health, who do not intend to expose them to any risk. If with all the bath in cold water everything went well with them, then it is possible that they submerge in the Epiphany ice pit.
If a person, who is not physically prepared to swim in the hole of the Epiphany, plunges into it, then most likely he will act on the principle: everyone bathes and I also have to swim. So they are just extras, and this should not be so.

I repeat once again: bathing in the hole at the Epiphany party is not absolutely necessary. During baptism, all water is sanctified. And if a person takes a hot shower that day, they will also do a baptismal bath. But it is possible not to dive and not swim, but only reverently wash with baptismal water, and this is enough to mark the baptism feast. And three sips of baptismal water are enough for the water in the deposits sanctified by the Lord that day to sanctify his whole being and his body within. Then priests should not and should not force people to plunge into the baptismal hole. The priest generally takes care of the health of his parishioners and believes that this is absolutely optional for everyone, the Archpriest Vladimir Vigilyansky, rector of the Church of the Holy Martyr Tatiyana at Moscow State University.

Over time some people began to dive into the icy water to receive part of the grace it contained. Now it is a popular tradition of which not only Russians or Orthodox Christians can participate.

If the cold is not an impediment, go ahead and visit Russia and see firsthand this amazing and unique tradition, and whoever takes it away, dare to participate in it. Of course, if you are going to immerse yourself, do not forget to take the necessary precautionary measures, take a good towel and take a hot bath afterwards.