Of Russian origin: Prorub
While most bundle up to brave against January’s frigid temperatures, Russians of the Eastern Orthodox faith put on bathing suits and plunge through holes carved in frozen lakes and rivers (or a "Prorub") as part of the yearly Epiphany Celebration.
The Epiphany commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River. Every January, believers honoring the tradition dip into the blessed holes which are usually carved into the shape of a cross. It is thought that on this day the waters composition changes and becomes holy, cleansing divers of their sins and healing sicknesses. The body and soul are believed to be strengthened after jumping into the ice hole three times.
The tradition is practiced by nonbelievers as well. In the Moscow Region, Svyatoye Ozero, or Holy Lake is the most popular bathing spot in the area with thousands coming every year to take part.
While plunging into a prorub is done for religious observance, it is also done to improve one’s health as part of the Russian banya experience. The Russian banya or sauna begins with a lengthy steam. It is then followed by a massaging and whacking with bunches of birch tree leaves. The steam and the leaves are believed to purify the body and to improve circulation. The sweating is also meant to clear pores and rid the body of excess water and salt. Once a bather is ready, he or she leaves the banya area and dips into a hole carved into a frozen river or lake. Diving into the cold water is a reinvigorating experience that regulates the body’s temperature after spending time in the banya.
Written by Staci Bivens for RT