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Neva river

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Today is the vernal equinox, the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It also marks the end of "the winter that wasn't," as the past several months in North America have been dubbed. It was the fourth-warmest winter in the United States since record-keeping began 117 years ago. In accord with the unusual weather, this turn of the season brings us snow in Arizona and Saudi Arabia, while conditions remain sunny and warm in America's Northeast and Western Europe. Collected here are scenes from around the world as a strange winter gives way to spring. [40 photos]

The sun sets behind cherry blossoms which have come into full bloom due to the early warm weather in Washington, D.C., on March 19, 2012. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

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A man rides a horse through a bonfire in San Bartolome de Pinares, Spain, Monday, Jan. 16, 2012, in honor of Saint Anthony, the patron saint of animals. On the eve of Saint Anthony’s Day, hundreds ride their horses trough the narrow cobblestone streets of the small village of San Bartolome during the “Luminarias,” a [...]

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Epiphany Night, St.Petersburg, Russia 2011

Alexander Aksakov (b. 1986, Russia) is a freelance photographer based in St. Petersburg. He started photographing life in cities and roads of Russia in 2005 during his first experience as a hitchhiker. While studying at the university he decided not to work as a marketeer, but would concentrate on photography. In 2007 he was invited by several Syktyvkar (Komi Republic, Russia) newspapers as a freelance photographer. After graduating in 2009 he was put into the army and served for a year as a fireman in Plesetsk, the space launching site. He lives and works in St. Petersburg shooting mainly for St. Petersburg and making personal documentary projects and essays.

About the Photograph:

“This photograph was made on my way home from an assignment. I saw large group of people swimming in the Neva river covered with ice. Somebody fired a flash in front of me at the moment I pressed the shutter. It’s believed that sinking into cold water for three times helps wash away your sins and become closer to God. In Russia it’s a very popular ritual and sometimes even people who don’t really believe in God take part in it. It doesn’t matter what the temperature is outside. People sink even if it’s -30C outside or colder. Those who have tried it say they feel lighter and better and their problems disappear.  That’s the idea of epiphany: people washing off their sins and getting closer to heaven.

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