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Celebrations harder during the cold Russian winter

Susan Notes:

Okay, trying to track down any press mentions of A Petition Calling For the Dismantling of the No Child Left Behind, I put that phrase in a Lexus Nexus search. Then I tried Philip Kovacs name. Then Marion Brady's. Then mine. On my name I got a hit that I knew must be an error: Daily Post (Liverpool), January 23, 2006, page 14, "Celebrations harder during the cold Russian winter."

Not possible, right?


The 599-word item is below. It is lovely. And just the fact that I would discover this in January, sitting here typing with my 5 layers of clothing. And a fire going in my wood stove.

by Peter Elson

IT'S one of those expressions about life that we all like to indulge in saying, as it gives a sense of drama, backed by a vaguely mysterious religious undertone.

"Yes, I suffered an epiphany". It's a great phrase to bandy about when the scales have dropped away from your eyes and you have confronted some reality. The element of suffering giving it that extra bit of gravitas.

My wife, who tells me that she is far too aware of the world to be taken in and therefore suffer the indignity of epiphanies, offers a favourite teaching quotation concerning Epiphany by Susan Ohanian.

"The teacher's day is half bureaucracy, half crisis, half monotony, and one eighth Epiphany. Never mind the arithmetic."

John Milton probably had this in mind as he wrote: "Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world."

Obviously, we would all prefer far more epiphanies each day and a few more angels around the world thrown in for good measure.
According to my 1907 Blackie's Concise Dictionary, compiled by Dr Charles Annandale, Epiphany comes from the Ancient Greek epiphaneia, meaning appearance, via Latin and French.

"An appearance or becoming manifest, specifically a Christian festival celebrated on the sixth day of January, in commemoration of the manifestation of our infant Saviour's birth to the Magi, or wise men of the East."

The New Penguin English Dictionary (2000) gives the secular definition, "a sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something".

The Russian Orthodox church, which uses the old Gregorian calendar, commemorated it late last week, on January 19.

The ceremony is a symbolic re-enactment of John the Baptist's submerging of Jesus in the River Jordan. Already you are probably thinking, hang on, is there not a temperature differential between the Middle East and Russia at this time of year? And you would be right.

In spite of the Siberian weather front which has hit Moscow bringing temperatures down to -30¡C, Russian Orthodox believers took part in Epiphany ceremonies at frozen lakes and rivers across the country.

Chainsaws were used to cut plunge holes in the Moscow River and the faithful were led by Orthodox priests (who stayed wrapped in their robes on dry land).

The ceremony in the most vile temperatures was enacted in Siberia itself, in the city of Yakutsk where the temperature reached -50¡C.
The philosophy behind the symbolism is that submerging in the icy waters will purge the faithful of their sins, plus the added benefit of hardening their constitution for the coming year.

The faithful are full of the joys of plunging and purging. One such quoted in reports was Olga Ladushkina of Moscow. She said: "It's fantastic. I do this for joy, for health and so my children have an example to follow."

Obviously, children are far less advanced (or do I mean more?) in Moscow than Rainhill. I can just imagine taking the plunge in Sherdley Park lake as an example to my sons. If they could tear their eyes and ears away from Gameboys and iPods sufficiently, the most response I achieve is a rolling of the eyes or a sarcastic snigger
But nature poets, like our own beloved Lake poets, are far more receptive on the Epiphany front. After all, they could not cross a Cumbrian stile without happening upon an Epiphany or several in just one afternoon ramble.

So fancy an Epiphany dip? Well, er yes, maybe, but I think I shall wait for a little more global warming, thank you very much.

— Peter Elson
Liverpool Daily Post


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