Chris­tians cel­e­brate Epiphany across Europe


Chris­tians across Europe cel­e­brated Epiphany on Jan. 6, with wor­ship­pers plung­ing into icy wa­ters and pa­rades be­ing held in Poland and else­where.

At the Vat­i­can, Pope Fran­cis marked the Epiphany feast day by urg­ing peo­ple to fol­low the path of “hum­ble love” and care for those who can give noth­ing back.

For the Catholic Church, Jan. 6 re­calls the jour­ney of the three Magi, also known as kings or wise men, to find Je­sus in a hum­ble abode in Beth­le­hem. In Spain, chil­dren leave their shoes out in ex­pec­ta­tion of re­ceiv­ing gifts from the three kings.

Thou­sands of Ortho­dox Chris­tians took a dip in icy lakes and rivers across Bul­garia to re­cover cru­ci­fixes cast by priests in cer­e­monies com­mem­o­rat­ing the bap­tism of Je­sus Christ.

Tra­di­tion holds that the per­son who re­trieves the wooden cross will be freed from evil spir­its and will be healthy through­out the year.

Af­ter the cross is fished out, the priest sprin­kles be­liev­ers with water us­ing a bunch of basil.

In the cen­tral Bul­gar­ian moun­tain city of Kalofer, dozens of men dressed in white em­broi­dered shirts waded into the Tundzha River wav­ing na­tional flags and singing folk songs Sun­day.

In­spired by the mu­sic of drums and bag­pipes, and per­haps by home­made plum brandy, they per­formed a slow “mazhko horo,” or men’s dance, stomp­ing on the rocky riverbed.

Led by the town’s mayor, the men danced for nearly half an hour, up to their waists in the freez­ing water, push­ing away chunks of ice that were float­ing by.

Kalofer has ap­plied to the UN cul­tural agency UNESCO, ask­ing that they cer­tify this tra­di­tional rit­ual as part of the “in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage of hu­man­ity.”

Dozens of Ortho­dox men dove into Is­tan­bul’s cold wa­ters to re­trieve a cross to mark the bap­tism of Je­sus Christ. Ec­u­meni­cal Pa­tri­arch Bartholomew I led wor­ship­pers in the Epiphany, throw­ing a blessed wooden cross into the Golden Horn in­let.

Michalis Voz­nakidis from Greece took the cross and the men kissed it be­fore com­ing ashore. He said “we are here for every­one, for our re­li­gion.”

In Poland, hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple have par­tic­i­pated in colour­ful Epiphany pro­ces­sions in more than 700 lo­ca­tions across the coun­try, which is pre­dom­i­nantly Catholic.

Around 40,000 peo­ple of all ages, wear­ing pa­per crowns, walked in the pro­ces­sion in down­town War­saw that in­cluded ac­tors richly dressed as the three wise men, and a pa­per dragon.

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