Today marks the Great Feast of Theophany on the Julian calendar, when Orthodox Christians commemorate Jesus’ baptism by St John the Forerunner in the River Jordan with the Blessing of the Waters. In warmer Mediterranean climates, priests throw the cross into the body of water for young swimmers to retrieve, bringing good fortune and blessings to whomever finds it, whereas in colder environments such as Russia, priests dip the cross in cross-shaped holes called “Jordans” cut in the ice. Many brave souls still plunge into the frigid waters!
Here is an informative chart detailing the creation of the “Jordan” cross-shaped ice holes (evoking Christ’s baptism in that river) through which Orthodox worshipers submerge themselves in a rite of cleansing purification on Theophany. This ritual also most noticeably evokes images of believers’ own baptisms, in this case, re-baptism or a re-dedication of one’s life to Christ: