Russian President Vladimir Putin submerged himself in freezing water in celebration of Epiphany, a holiday in Orthodox Christianity that celebrates Jesus’ baptism.
The Associated Press reported that Russian TV stations and reporters were present as cameras caught Putin dunking and crossing himself in Lake Seliger in the northwestern region of Russia. The lake was frozen and a hole was cut into it so that Putin could take part in the tradition.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the temperature of the water was 21 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to The Washington Post, the tradition involves a ceremony that purifies the spirit. Although Peskov said Putin has taken part in the tradition in the past, Friday was the first time he did so publicly. The publication said the fanfare may have been an effort to appeal to religious voters as Russia’s presidential election is in March.
More than 500,000 Russians dipped themselves into man-made or natural pools of water across the country to mark the observance of Epiphany, according to Russia’s Channel One TV network. Unlike the West, where the day, known as Three Kings’ Day in the United States, is celebrated Jan. 6, Russians observe on Jan. 19, following the Gregorian calendar.