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Polar Bear Swim Day

Polar Bear Swim Day, or Polar Bear Plunge Day, is a day each year dedicated to taking a polar bear plunge, where participants enter a cold body of water as part of a challenge or for charity. Although polar bear plunges take place throughout the colder months, the most popular day for them is on New Year's Day, making it fitting that today would be Polar Bear Swim Day. If the challenge of plunging into ice-cold water can be done on the first day of the year, it should be easier to tackle many other challenges throughout the year.

Polar bear plunges on New Year's Day are most popular in Canada, the Netherlands, and the United States. The earliest known polar bear plunge occurred in Boston in 1904. Since 1920, people have plunged into Vancouver's English Bay on New Year's Day. There are usually about 2,000 registered participants, but it is estimated that about 10,000 people actually take the plunge. Many other cities in Canada hold plunges on New Year's Day. In the Netherlands, about 30,000 people take plunges in about 90 locations on the first day of the year. Most notably, about 10,000 people dive in in Scheveningen. Polar bear clubs have been established in the United States in states known for cold weather. The following places are notable for their polar bear plunges, many of which take place on New Year's Day, or Polar Bear Swim Day:

  • Sheboygan, WI
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Seattle, WA
  • Evergreen, CO
  • New York City, NY—Coney Island
  • Lake George, NY
  • Boston, MA
  • Sandy Point State Park, MD

How to Observe Polar Bear Swim Day

The day is most easily celebrated if you live in a city with cold weather and bodies of water. Check around your community to see if a polar plunge event is taking place, and then sign up. Maybe you will take the plunge to challenge yourself, or maybe there is a charity that you can help raise money for. If you take a plunge, make sure you have warm towels and clothes nearby to warm you up afterwards.

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