Epiphany in Russia
On January 19, Orthodox Christians celebrate Epiphany, a major Christian feast commemorating the Baptism of Christ in the River Jordan.
The night before Epiphany, the great blessing of waters begins in Orthodox churches. The blessing is done twice, first inside a church on Epiphany Eve, and then outdoors on the day of the holiday. People line up in churches to fill their bottles with the holy water which is believed to have a curative effect. Many defy sub-zero temperatures and take a dip in an ice hole to cleanse themselves of sins and take advantage of the heath-giving properties of Epiphany water as it is thought that any water on this day, be it tapped water or a pond, becomes baptismal. The number of "walruses" increases by the year. In Moscow, some 60,000 people are expected to enjoy Epiphany bathing.
The holy water doesn't spoil and therefore needn't be kept in a fridge. Orthodox Christians keep it in the "red corner" below the icons. If you need to bless a larger portion of water, just put a drop of Epiphany water into it.
On Sunday, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will conduct a special liturgy in the Moscow Cathedral of the Epiphany. Similar services will be held in all Russian Orthodox churches in and outside the country.