ISTANBUL – Greek Orthodox swimmers took to chilly waters on Saturday in races to retrieve wooden crosses thrown into them by priests to mark the religious feast day of Epiphany.
Images released by epa showed men wearing swimming trunks waiting on small boats in Istanbul as they braced themselves for a cold water dip in the Golden Horn of the Bosporus.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I had the task of throwing in the crucifix in order to bless the waters.
Tradition dictates that the person who retrieves the cross shall enjoy good health and happiness.
The lucky swimmer to snatch the cross at this year’s edition of the race was Nikos Solis, who was awarded a golden necklace by the patriarch for his efforts after his victory, according to an epa source.
Similar scenes played out in the Greek capital Athens on Saturday, where Orthodox swimmers competed for the same prize.
The Feast of Epiphany commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist.
It is marked annually on Jan. 6 by those who follow the Gregorian calendar, while other Orthodox churches mark the occasion on Jan. 18, as per the Julian calendar.