"Hey, let's do something to appease our Lord. We need to rid ourselves of sin."
"I know, let's baptize ourselves. I hear the Lord likes that sort of thing."
"We live in Siberia. It's January, and a bit nippy out."
"Well, then let's chop through the ice, in the shape of a cross of course, then dip our naked children in there. It will take away all of their sins."
"We don't have to take off our coats, do we?"
"No, don't be silly! Just the little children."
"Yes, I hear it's all the rage. I'll get my axe. You get the baby."
And I said, WTF? This is religion at work. In Communist Russia, religion was banned, driven underground. But since the fall of Communism, there has been a resurgence.
All it takes are liberal doses of ignorance and superstition with a dash of confirmation bias, a pinch of cognitive dissonance, and an authoritarian dogma to serve extra portions of indoctrination. And voila! You have people taking their children as young as newborns and dipping them in ice water in January in Siberia.
It's truly barbaric. And it's also dangerous. It can literally shock the heart enough to make it stop, and can cause hypothermia.
There is a popular belief that diving into an ice hole 3 times on Epiphany will erase your sins. But what sins do newborns or small children have? Supposedly, this belief is not endorsed officially by the Orthodox Church.
This has become popular since the 1990's, so it's not an old ritual. Father Yakov Krotov, an Orthodox priest of Moscow said,"This is not going back to our traditions - no, this is just an attempt [by the masses] to create some kind of great past." Whether Father Krotov agrees with it or not, it appears in the video an in other pictures online that there are officials (dressed quite warmly) officiating the abusive treatment.
While my imaginary conversation mentions only children, adults do it too. If they want to freeze their bits off and damage their hearts, that's their business. But it's abusive to make a child do this against their will, or under coercion and indoctrination.
Not to mention, does this give these people license to "sin" throughout the year, knowing all they have to do is get baptized in January to wipe the slate clean? I don't know, but I would think human nature would easily rationalize such behavior.
Epiphany, or Theophany, takes place on January 19 and commemorates Jesus' baptism in the river Jordan. Supposedly the waters are holy on this day.