Orthodox Christians in Serbia and several other countries celebrate Epiphany on January 19 – proudly sticking to the old calendar that puts every significant religious date two weeks after those followed by other Christians.This year, I also decided to pay my respects to the baptism of Jesus Christ by taking part in a traditional "diving for the cross" race in the freezing cold and eternally polluted Tamis river in Pancevo, near the Serbian capital of Belgrade
For those who have never heard of the weirdo Orthodox Christian custom, on Epiphany Day a bunch of young men jump into the usually ice-cold waters of rivers, seas and puddles to try and retrieve a wooden cross – thrown in there by a priest. The guy that gets to the cross faster will supposedly be lucky, or grow good crops or a strong beard – or something to that effect – in the coming months.I am a young man so this year, I thought I too should take my chances at good fortune under the watchful eyes of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Serbian army, assorted faithful, as well as some members of the White Eagles – a group aiming to preserve traditional Serbian crafts. Yes, these are the guys who came to the gig dressed as Medieval knights.
But my dream fell apart when I realised I'd forgotten my doctor's note at home. Having failed to prove I was in a good physical condition, I had to settle for sitting on the side of the river half-naked – just like any common loser. I also took these photos of the event.