Nicola here! There are many Christmas and New Year traditions that I enjoy. Most involve being cosy and warm, out of the elements, maybe eating special food or chatting with friends in front of the fire. I might even go for a brisk walk with the dog, particularly if it's been snowing. I've already been to the swimming pool in an attempt to start 2018 in a healthy fashion. And yet… Possibly my least favourite way to mark either Christmas or New Year would be by jumping into cold water. Perhaps I'm missing something, though, as every year, more and more people are taking the plunge to celebrate the festive season.
The tradition of "winter swimming", open air swimming in the winter season, has long been associated with Epiphany in countries like Russia and in Eastern Europe but in the UK it has become popular for reasons varying from an extreme hangover cure to raising money for charity. The earliest record of the tradition in England seems to be from 1860 when the Brighton Swimming Club, which comprised a number of tradesmen from the town, met up at 7am every day for a dip in the sea. Apparently they had formed the club two years earlier when they had all decided they wanted to learn to swim, which is rather cute. Many other Christmas and New Year swims were established in the 20th century and have been running for approaching 100 years. Suitable garb these days can be anything from bikinis and mankinis to fancy dress and Santa costumes!
Lidos and open air swimming pools are nothing new, of course, but in the far north (or south) it does take a hardy spirit to embrace them. Whilst the first official lido in England was established in the Regency period at Cleveland Pools in Bath, there is a record of an open air pool at one of Oxford's colleges in the medieval period!
Have you ever celebrated the festive season with a plunge into cold water? Are there traditions like that near where you are? Or have you done something different but equally challenging to welcome in the New Year?