To celebrate the Orthodox holiday of the Epiphany, on January 19, Russians plunge into ice-cold water to purify their bodies.
In a ritual imitating the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan, wholes are cut into the ice covering rivers and ponds across Russia and priests bless their waters. People actually stand in line, late into the night, wearing only their swim-suits or underwear, to jump into the ice-cold water.
The cold water is said to have a cleansing effect on those brave enough to jump into it, but some of the brave swimmers just do it for fun and thrills. Not recommended for the faint-hearted, the ritual of the Epihany helps harden the body and make it more resisliant to illness.
Surely some good Russian vodka helps the swimmers get through the ritual a lot easier.