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Orthodox Christians Celebrate Epiphany

A Romanian diver shows a wooden cross he retrieved from the Black Sea during an Epiphany religious service in Constanta.
Thousands of Orthodox Christians in Bulgaria and Romania are commemorating the Epiphany holiday by plunging into icy rivers and lakes according to a traditional Orthodox custom.

The swimmers, mainly young men, have been plunging into the icy bodies of water to retrieve wooden crosses thrown by priests.

According to tradition, the person who succeeds in retrieving the cross will be freed from evil spirits.

In the Bulgarian city of Kalofer, some 350 men waded into the Tundzha River led by the town's mayor and fortified by a preswim drink of plum brandy.

Dozens of Romanian swimmers dived into the Black Sea in the port city of Constanta to retrieve three crosses cast by priests.

Followers of the Armenian Apostolic Church are also celebrating their Christmas holiday, together with Epiphany.

Based on reporting by AP and