14 January, 2014
This January in St. Petersburg has already been usually warm. However, we are finally getting a cold snap that is causing snow to blanket the city’s historic buildings and finally allowing residents to enjoy Winter activities and traditions.
One tradition that visitors from warmer climates might have a hard time believing, is the annual Epiphany (Богоявление) swim in the (usually frozen) River Neva from the beach of Peter and Paul fortress.
The tradition celebrates the baptism of Jesus, as according to the Orthodox calendar and is practiced throughout Eastern Europe. The tradition is relatively new in Russia, only having become popular in the 1990s since the collapse of the USSR.
Here in St. Petersburg, the official celebration is scheduled to take place on Sunday, January 19th. Despite the state of the river ice however, there will be many people taking the plunge in the freezing water, while being watched by onlookers enjoying cups of tea and bowls of Russian porridge and Blini!
If you are looking for a fun and slightly crazy Russian winter tradition to see, then winter swimming is the right for you!