Friday, January 19, 2007

The freezing cold Epiphany!

In between our morning and afternoon visits Misha and Aliya took us to see the Epiphany Celebration. Aliya tells us this is a big holiday here in Kazakhstan. I'm still interested in going online to learn more about this custom but it was very interesting to watch and I'm glad we were in Kazakhstan for it as I've read about it in several other adoption journals.

The locals cut a section from the ice in the river and jump in, dunking their whole bodies (including their heads) under water 3 times to cleanse themselves of their sins. This is a one-day thing and apparently goes on all day. We were there around 10:45am and there was a constant stream of people (mostly men) submerging themselves. Some husbands and wives went down to the ice together. The men were wearing just their swimming trunks (speedo style) and it is customary for the women to do this wearing a nightgown (for modesty) but several had swimsuits on as well.

We saw one younger girl that reminded me a lot of Jessica at church. She was around 11 or 12 years old and her parents held onto her hands and lowered her into the water 3 times and then lifted her back out.

There is another place about 20 feet from the main hole where people fill up large water jugs with water from the river. If I understood correctly, it is said the water on this day is blessed by God and more holy. I walked down with Misha to help fill up his 3 water jugs. While I was with Misha, Aliya was telling Tom that her father used to fill up jugs and this particular water helped things grow better than other water and lasted an unusually long time compared to other water.

I can attest that even though it is a very mild winter here right now the ice is already 8-9 inches thick and the water is icy cold and the wind on the iced over river is very brisk. Misha was not into submerging himself today but he did wash his hands in the icy water after filling the jugs and then used more water on his face when he was done.

PS - I did a little more research on the topic after posting the original blog entry. To learn more about this holiday and tradition please read this article posted by Christianity Today.

Here is a general information page on what Epiphany means for Americans... sort of. I understand the meaning, but as Christians, my family has never celebrated this holiday nor have I heard it as more important that Christmas or Easter, etc. It is always on Jan. 6... 12 days after Christmas.

If you know more about Epiphany or celebrate it yourself, please post comments... I'm intrigued and would like to learn more.


Amy S. said...

I find this extremely interesting. WOW! I'm so glad you posted pics and a video! I have to say I've never heard of this before, very interesting. I've learned something today.

Amy Kramp said...

Hey, I'm confused by this "Christian" tradition because I didn't think Kazakstan was a Christian culture...(then again, we all know I am easily confused...)

Mary Beth said...

"Arise, shine, for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawning". (Is. 60) I'm Lutheran, and Epiphany is my FAVE festival, even more so than Christmas and Easter. The appointed Scripture texts for the Day are about Jesus being God Himself made manifest for the sake of ALL people, even the Gentiles, even me! I've no clue what the freezing cold dunk has to do with Epiphany, tho!

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