RUSSIAN Orthodox Christians in Oxford celebrated the end of the Christmas period and the baptism of Jesus.

Members of the Russian Orthodox Parish of St Nicholas the Wonderworker walked from the Ferry Road church to Parson’s Pleasure near the University Parks on Saturday.

Holding banners and a processional cross and icon, they then held a service and blessed the water to mark the Epiphany, or the baptism of Jesus.

The priest throws a cross into the water three times to bless it, and in colder climates, such as Russia, they often cut an elaborate hole in the shape of a cross into the ice.

Parish priest Father Stephen Platt said: “For the Orthodox Church, Epiphany does not commemorate the three kings coming to the baby Jesus as it does for Western Christians. It is a commemoration of when Jesus was baptised in the river Jordan by John the Baptist.

“It is a principal feast of the year and in a way, the closing of the Christmas period. It was a very beautiful and moving celebration.”

Seven-year-old Sergiy Rafiee led the procession. He said: “I felt very proud but quite shy because it was my first time.”