Russians brave icy cold for Epiphany

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MOSCOW (AP) — It’s not the River of Jordan, but that isn’t stopping Russian Orthodox believers from plunging into the icy Moscow River in their traditional Epiphany celebration.

Braving temperatures of minus 25 degrees Celcius (minus 13 Fahrenheit), thousands queued overnight and into dawn Tuesday to dunk themselves into a hole in the ice in Moscow and rise again in a ritual symbolizing rebirth.

The scene, mimicking the baptism of Jesus in the River of Jordan, was repeated from Vladivostok to Volgograd across Russia in a ceremony whose popularity is increasing with that of the Orthodox Church.

Typically a cross is carved out of the ice near the bathing spot, and a wooden dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit is thrown into the water.