NUR-SULTAN – The capital akimat (city administration) is preparing for Epiphany bathing Jan. 18-19, reported its press service. It is insisting people follow safety measures and consider weather conditions.
Special bathing ice holes for all to use will be equipped on the right bank of the Yessil River near Makhambet Otemisov Schoolchildren’s Palace and the Grand Alatau residential complex and left bank near Stolichny Park. The holes will operate from 8 p.m. (after the blessing of the water) to midnight, Jan. 18, and 8 a.m.-1 a.m., Jan. 19.
“The location of these holes is convenient for organising such mass events (convenient road access, parking areas) and the residents of the capital are well aware of these places. Today, the district akimats are installing and cutting the fonts, installing handrails, wooden flooring and tents,” the press service told The Astana Times.
Orthodox churches around the city will hold divine services on Epiphany Eve, followed by a procession. The march will start from Konstantin-Eleninsky Cathedral at 7.30 p.m., Jan. 18 and end on the riverbank.
The akimat is placing its main emphasis on complying with safety procedures and organising comfortable conditions for capital residents. The Department of Emergency Situations water rescue service and Police Department will have on-site safety measures and ambulance crews will be on duty.
“It should be noted that in order to ensure safety, the underwater parts of the holes are equipped with safety nets. Also, with the help of the rescue service, the Department of Emergency Situations organised an off-site press conference with media participation Jan. 15, where safety standards were explained (such as rules for dipping in an ice hole),” reported the press service.
Lifesavers warn everyone wishing to dive that such bathing is dangerous, especially for those without experience, in poor health and with alcohol intoxication, as well as for elder citizens and children. Residents are reminded they can swim only in safe, specially equipped places, where, if necessary, rescue services can provide timely, qualified assistance.
When plunging into icy water, a person puts his or her body under extreme stress – a sharp drop in temperature and pressure can lead to respiratory arrest, heart failure, muscle spasms and fainting. All could be fatal if a person does not receive help within three-four minutes.
The operational rescue unit and disaster medicine centre will be on duty with 46 people and six equipment units. They will also hold an additional briefing for bathing participants.
“In 2018-2019, approximately 30,000-40,000 residents visited the ice holes for two days of mass bathing. It is expected the number of visitors may be two times more in 2020, because the celebration falls on Saturday and Sunday (the weekend),” added the press service.
Tents with food and hot beverages will be stationed near the bathing holes.
Baptismal bathing is a part of the celebration of the Epiphany of Jesus Christ. Orthodox Christianity celebrates the Epiphany Jan. 19.
The celebration has two stages. The first takes place in a church on the evening before the holiday (Epiphany Eve); the second occurs the next day outside the church, with a procession to rivers and ponds.
The holiday’s obligatory attribute is diving into a baptistery cut in a frozen river. The procedure is considered to cleanse the person of all sins.
Though a Christian celebration, it has long become popular among all Kazakh citizens and many non-Christians participate in the annual event.