Bulgarians celebrate Epiphany in freezing river

Orthodox priests cast a crucifix into the waters of a lake or river, and it is believed that the person who retrieves it will be freed from evil spirits and will be healthy through the year.

Despite calls from the authorities to cancel the celebration, about 70 men from Kalofer took part of the ritual, while dozens gathered along the river banks to watch it.

"This is an important event for the community... We tried to limit the access, but we could not. Still we see here about one-fifth, one-sixth of the people who usually come," said Kalofer Mayor Rumen Stoyanov.

After the crucifix was recovered, the men put their arms around each other's shoulders, sang and danced in a circle to music played on drums and bagpipes.

The ritual in Kalofer sparked heated debates on social networks, where some admired the tradition while others called for the men and the town to be fined for breaking the anti-pandemic rules.