Valentina Petrova / APCitizens of the mountain town of Kalofer in central Bulgaria, clad in traditional garments, stand in the icy Tundzha River in an old ritual marking the feast of Epiphany on Jan. 6, 2021. (Valentina Petrova / AP)
Thousands of Orthodox Christians in Bulgaria on Wednesday defied warnings issued by government authorities to avoid mass gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic and kept instead to their centuries-old Epiphany traditions.
Young men plunged into the icy waters of rivers and lakes across Bulgaria to retrieve crucifixes tossed by priests in ceremonies commemorating the baptism of Jesus Christ.
After the cross was fished out, the priest sprinkled believers with water using a bunch of basil.
In the small mountain city of Kalofer in central Bulgaria, dozens of men dressed in traditional white embroidered shirts waded into the frigid Tundzha River waving national flags and singing folk songs.