Epiphany is considered one of the most important religious holidays in the Orthodox calendar and is celebrated with a variety of Christian and folk traditions involving water and horses.
In the Orthodox Church, Epiphany celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan, rather than the arrival of the Magi or three wise men which is celebrated on 6 January as Epiphany in Catholic and Protestant churches.
However, the day was marred by acts of animal cruelty in one southern Romanian village.
Police are carrying out an investigation after images were posted of jeering men whipping horses and forcing them to pull heavy blocks of concrete.
The ceremony known as “the Horses Baptism” which occurs in southern Romania took place Wednesday in the village of Mogosesti, about from Bucharest.
Police said they were pursuing criminal charges against individuals on suspicion of harming or mistreating animals.
It was a stain on what are normally some of the most colorful religious traditions of the year in the Orthodox world.
Typically, priests go from house to house carrying a cross and splash children, wells, and trees with holy water to chase away evil spirits.
The water which is called “aghiasma”’ in Romanian is said to have miraculous properties and to be able protect people from diseases and evil things; it is also purported to cure infertility.
One custom involves a priest throwing a cross into a river or a lake as men then leap into the icy waters to retrieve it.
The person who successfully brings it ashore receive the priest’s blessing and is considered to be blessed with good fortune all year long.
In the past, the man who successfully retrieved the cross would have gifts bestowed on him by the local governor and was honored by the community.
The day also includes al folk traditions, such as caroling or predictions for the coming year.
Unmarried girls put basil under their pillows and custom has it that they will dream about their future husband.
Folk tradition says that if the weather is good on Epiphany, the year will be rich in bread and fish.
One also says that if in the morning there us frost on the trees, the year will be rich in fruit.
Epiphany is followed by Saint John the Baptist Day on Jan. 7/