Bulgarians Celebrate Epiphany Diving in Ice-Cold Waters
In the cold of winter, young men all over Bulgaria are to jump into rivers and lakes, keeping an old tradition in celebrating the Christian Orthodox feast of Epiphany.
On January 6, known also as St Jordan's, Orthodox Chrisitans celebrate the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist in the river Jordan, seen as his appearance to the world (epiphany) as the Son of God.
The characteristic Bulgarian St Jordan's ritual is performed by a priest who throws a cross into a river or a lake for young men to catch it. It is believed that the first person that gets to the cross will enjoy good health throughout the whole year.
Since so many Bulgarians are named Yordan, Ivan or various derivatives, the holiday is very popular in the country, all the more so that it comes just days after the particularly demanding New Year celebrations and St Basil's day.
Western churches also celebrate the Epiphany holiday as a Christian feast commemorating the revelation of Jesus to humanity, but stress not on his baptism, but rather on the visit of the Magi.
In Bulgaria the festival has different names in the different parts of the country, some of them are Krastovden (Day of the Cross) or Voditsi (Waters). The night before St. Jordan's Day is the last one of the "incensed" nights.
Solemn ceremonies of consecrating Bulgaria's colors will gather statesmen, defense and municipal officials at various locations in the country Sunday.
The religious-military ritual is believed to bring health and success to the whole nation and was first performed for Bulgaria's warriors in 917 AD.