Christian Orthodox believers celebrate Epiphany

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++NIGHT SHOTS++
Batumi, Georgia
1. Wide of Orthodox worshippers gathered in front of church
2. Orthodox worshippers walking towards the Black Sea
3. Mid of women bathing in the sea
4. Close of child and mother standing by the sea splashing water
5. SOUNDBITE: (Georgian) Nana Mgeladze, Batumi resident:
"I've tried to participate in the ritual for the past eleven years. This gives me strength and health. I wish for happiness and prosperity in Georgia and also that everyone feels the way I feel now."
6. Mid of man with child entering the sea
7. Close of church flag waving
++DAY SHOTS++
Becmen village, 30 kilometres (20 miles) west of Belgrade, Serbia
8. Wide of Epiphany procession in the village
9. Wide of people gathering near Becmen lake
10. Wide of people crowding the banks of the lake
11. Close up of mother and son
12. Mid of people's reflections in the lake water
13. Wide of swimmers diving into the lake
14. Close up of two swimmers splashing through the water and reaching pontoon to retrieve a wooden cross
15. Mid of swimmers holding to a small raft as it appears to start tipping
16. SOUNDBITE: (Serbian) Bojan Gacic, winner of the traditional Epiphany cross retrieval race:
"This means the world to me, as it would mean to any Orthodox believer. Every Orthodox Christian's dream is to retrieve the cross. It wasn't cold. Nothing is hard when you have faith in God."
17. Wide of Gacic holding the retrieved cross
Kiev, Ukraine
18. Wide of priests and faithful walking outside to the ice hole for the Epiphany ceremony
19. Close of ice hole in the shape of the Christian cross
20. Mid of priest taking cross from the water
21. Wide of people swimming in the cold water; ice cross in foreground
22. Close of men submerging themselves underwater
23. Mid of priest sprinkling holy water on man
24. Pan of people jumping into the water
25. SOUNDBITE: (Ukrainian) Victor Sobchuk, local resident:
"I've been supporting this tradition of the Cossacks for 10 years. I'm proud to have this tradition of the Cossacks from our ancestors that has given us this tradition from generation to generation."
26. Wide of man dressed in traditional Cossack costume with flag drawing line in snow
27. Mid of traditional play fight between men
28. Mid of fight
29. Wide of church
30. Mid of church spires
STORYLINE:
Orthodox Christians across eastern Europe celebrated Epiphany on Sunday with many receiving water blessings in churches and, for a brave few, in lakes and rivers.
In Batumi on the Black Sea coast in Georgia a few faithful bathed themselves in the water at midnight.
The tradition dates back centuries but has only been revived since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
"I've tried to participate in the ritual for the past eleven years," said Batumi resident Nana Mgeladze.
"This gives me strength and health."
The toughest of the Christian faithful in Serbia gathered at rivers and ponds, braving the icy waters and participating in traditional cross retrieval races.
According to Orthodox Christian tradition, the person that retrieves the cross from the water will have health and happiness throughout the year.
In the small village of Becmen, some 30 kilometres (20 miles) west of Serbia's capital, Belgrade, 22 participants swam across the lake to retrieve a wooden cross placed there by the local priest.
"Every Orthodox Christian's dream is to retrieve the cross," said this year's winner of the race, Bojan Gacic.
"It wasn't cold. Nothing is hard when you have faith in God."
In Ukraine's capital, Kiev, as part of Epiphany celebrations, an ice hole was cut out of the river and a few hardy souls submerged themselves.
Others joined in a play fight on the ice based on Cossack tradition.



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