Epiphany diving is a Russian tradition, not a Ukrainian one, and it does not "wash away" any sins, - the OCU statement

18 January, 09:15
The OCU has commented on the fact that during the celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord, the trend of mass diving into the ice hole is coming to the fore.

"Everyone's motivation is different: someone "washes away their sins", someone tests the limits of their body, and others substantiate this by observing the "ancient Ukrainian tradition". The last statement is completely false! Our people did not have such a tradition associated with the feast of the Epiphany. Neither ethnographers nor historians recorded the alleged "traditional" mass dives of Ukrainians into icy water on the occasion of the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord until the middle of the twentieth century. There are no descriptions of such action either in ancient sources, or in studies about the traditions of Cossack Ukraine, or in the memoirs of older people. Some historians associate this custom with our northern neighbors, the Russians, who used to dive into cold water after a bath, as well as with the spread of ideas of hardening the body as part of a healthy lifestyle. According to observations, mass dives into the water on the feast of the Epiphany actually appeared in the second half of the 1990s-early 2000s. Therefore, this custom in Ukraine is of a new, not ancient, origin," the OCU has commented on Facebook.

The OCU notes that it is absolutely erroneous to say that bathing in icy water after the blessing of water "washes away" all sins:

"How on earth can they be "washed off"? Can the very physical act of immersion in consecrated water, without repentance for sins, lead to their overcoming? There is not a single church prescription for performing such an action on the feast of the Epiphany. The road to eternal blissful life and salvation lies solely through sincere repentance for sins, prayer, and love for God and our neighbors. Only the Lord can free your soul from sin by seeing your sincere repentance and participation in the sacraments of confession and communion."

The Church does not prohibit diving in winter water but emphasizes that this is the right and choice of everyone.

"We urge you not to consider this action ecclesiastical, related to the celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord. Those who make such a choice should do it consciously and responsibly, after having weighed all the pros and cons carefully: the state of health, the reasons for such an act, its possible consequences, in particular, in the context of the pandemic."