Jan. 19 (UPI) — Russian President Vladimir Putin took a dip into the icy Lake Seliger to celebrate the Orthodox Christian holiday, Epiphany.
Putin, 65, approached a hole cut in the ice in north-western Russia before dipping himself into the water and crossing himself.
Epiphany is celebrated on Jan. 19, the day when it is believed infant Jesus was visited by the Three Wise Men. The Epiphany Bath is meant to represent the baptism of Jesus.
Water blessed by a priest during Epiphany week is considered holy and pure according to Orthodox Christian tradition.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said Putin took the plunge into the frigid waters because “the temperature around the lake was no lower than 6-7 degrees below zero that night.”
Although Putin has taken the Epiphany Bath before, this was the first time he has publicly done so, Peskov said.
Dipping into the water is not a church rite, but a folk custom, according to TASS. However, the Russian Orthodox Church looks favorably at the tradition as long as the person’s health allows them to do so.