(MENAFN- AFP) Christians in Romania marked the Epiphany holiday on Wednesday with a series of quirky traditional rituals including horse blessings and icy sea bathing.
The holiday marks the day Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist, which Romanians observe with gusto, starting the previous evening when Orthodox priests bless water in preparation for mass.
Hundreds turned out for the "horse baptism" -- an age-old ritual in which the four-legged beasts, decked in red ribbons and small bells, are splattered with holy water by priests seated behind them on a cart.
"It is important to have one horse blessed for his and our health and for the harvest," horse breeder, Fanel Tudor, 47, told AFP as he explained the practice is believed to bring a rich yield for farmers.
Following the baptism, several horses raced across a snowy field as locals roared them on.
Orthodox priest Mihai Dobre explained that "this millenium-old tradition has its roots in the Gospel as God blessed mankind and all creation."
At Constanta, on the Black Sea, some 7,000 worshippers shrugged off icy rain to attend a seaside mass.
Fourteen men then braved the freezing conditions to plunge into the water and recover three crosses thrown by a priest in accordance with another local tradition.
After the ceremony bystanders holy water reputed to have special recuperative powers that was distributed from five cattle and donkey-drawn carts which ploughed their way through the streets.
Similar rituals were held in the Danube riverside towns of Giurgiu, Braila, Galati and Tulcea.
Elsewhere, thousands of people lined up outside churches in Bucharest and other cities to fill plastic bottles with water blessed by priests.
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