ASTANA – In total, more than 70,000 people took part in the traditional Epiphany Day swim across Kazakhstan on Jan. 18-19, Tengrinews reported.
The residents of the capital beat out all other regions with a whopping 13,000 freezing water enthusiast divers, while the Kostanai and Pavlodar regions both had about 8,000 each.
“This is not about religion, this is not about nationalities; here there are Muslims, Christians, foreign guests, kids, Russians, Kazakhs, we are all here. This is a good tradition and most importantly it is good for health,” said Sholpan Karazhanova, 20, a student of Gumilyov Eurasian University.
Epiphany Day celebrates the christening of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River by John the Baptist and the manifestation of the Christian god in the figure of Jesus Christ; the dip is to wash away old transgressions and strengthen the spirit and body. Although the holiday is a Christian religious celebration, it attracts people of different faiths and nationalities as a test of endurance.
“The real test is to wait in line to have a dive,” Aizhanat Zholmyrza, another attendee said. “It takes up to one hour to get to the hole and during this time we are freezing in the cold. At first, you’re scared of the idea. But after you summon up the courage and dive, you feel warm and then cold again. This was my first time but I am not sure if I want to do it next year.”
The holes were located on the Yessil River, one by the Kenessary Monument, by the Grand Alatau high-rise building and near the Nur Astana restaurant, across from the Central Park.
The Ministry of Emergency Situations, the city administration and an ambulance were on site for emergencies, however, no incidents were reported.