Epiphany Celebration in St. Petersburg

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On the night of January 18th, 2014 the Russian Orthodox Church, together with the congregation, celebrates the Epiphany. It is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Christian year. This day of all others was the time when the Holy Trinity appeared on earth for the first time. That is why the second name of this feast is the Theophany. It is considered that during this feast the religious can be purged of sin and thus regenerate for a spiritual life.

There is a special tradition concerning the way the Epiphany should be celebrated. On the Eve of Theophany Russian families observe a fast. It means fish, meat, and alcohol are strictly forbidden. Only after the appearance of Vesper, the evening star, in the sky families gather to share their simple supper. It usually consists of cooked grain, almond milk and honey. The next day the religious go to the church and participate in the blessing of the water. This event is particularly important. From the earliest times the water was a symbol of the eternal source of life. Nowadays Russian people perform ritual ablutions. For this purpose they make an ice-hole which should look like a cross and call it ”Jordan” in remembrance of the river Jordan where Jesus Christ was baptized. Then the priest blesses the water and religious people can go for a dip three times.

Regarding the low temperature during this time of the year people put some cream or take a spoon full of cod-liver oil to protect themselves from frostbite. Those who are not that brave can just take some holy water and sprinkle on themselves at home. The holy water should be kept in gloom. During the whole year such water keeps its healthfulness and is regarded as a spiritual source of life. After the water consecration everyone is invited to have a generous portion of Russian traditional dishes including porridge with butter, pancakes (or ”blinis”), borsch and oven-baked pork. In some regions of Russia the pancakes are made in a square form in order to attract more money.

It is often believed that the weather on the day of the Epiphany is the best forecast for the summer weather. For example, if the sky is clear and it is cold the summer will be dry and lean. At the same time gloomy weather defines an abundant harvest. And a folk saying for young gentlemen – the Epiphany is the best day to make a proposal – so let’s combine business with pleasure!