Last weekend, despite bone chilling temperatures of nearly 20C below zero in Moscow, thousands of Russian Orthodox faithful took a plunge into icy cold waters to honor Epiphany (Bogoyavlenie) – the revelation of God as Son, and in human form as Jesus Christ.
For believers across Russia, Ukraine and Belarus this holiday is rooted as much in Orthodox Christianity as in ancient pagan traditions. In fact, many Russian rituals can be traced to pagan times, when the people of Rus’ worshiped natural forces and deities associated with nature. As times changed, a number of these customs evolved and were accepted by the Orthodox Christian Church, spawning a magical mix of cultural traditions. In this week’s blog, we explore a few fine examples of ancient Russian customs that are still very much present in modern Russian life.