Epiphany Swimming for the Holy Cross of Honour
The Epiphany Swimming for the Holy Cross of Honour (or the Swimming for the Holy Cross of Honor) is an extreme open water swimming event held annually on 19 January in the Old City Beach in Šabac and other places throughout Serbia. The tradition is to jump into cold water and swim for the cross which is 33 meters away in honor of Jesus Christ’s years on earth. The first one to touch the cross is a winner and get’s to carry honorary title of knight for that year.
Epiphany swimming is ice swimming or entering in icy waters on the day of the Epiphany in many Eastern Orthodox Christian countries. Orthodox Christians celebrate the religious holiday of Epiphany according to the Julian calendar on 19 January. Traditions differ across the Eastern Orthodox Christian countries of southern and eastern European countries, but swimmers dive for a cross at the bottom of the lake or river to commemorate the baptism of Jesus Christ.
The event in Šabac is organised by Vojislav Mijić and the local swimming club, the Dolphins of Šabac. Its first year was 2004 when 70 competitors participated. All the competitors have to pass physical and medical tests one hour before the race that is usually held in water and air temperature that is close to 0ºC (32ºF). Winners usually finish the race in 20 seconds or less. Professional divers, ambulances, and lifeguards are present at the events.
The sponsor is Crown Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic the Second.
The Epiphany Swimming for the Holy Cross of Honour was organized in Serbia between the first and second World Wars. The years of war stopped its organisation in Serbia. After winning the battle against Fascism, the former Communist regime of President Josip Broz Tito forbid the organisation of the event.
Upon the integration of democracy in Serbia in the latter part of the 20th century, the tradition of Epiphany swimming was renewed in Serbia. The Epiphany swimming is held throughout Serbia and usually takes place in rivers and lakes because Serbia does not have borders along a sea or ocean. Every event in Serbia is 33 meters in honour of the number of years Jesus lived on earth.