Canadians across country celebrate New Year’s Day with polar bear swim

Image: Polar Bear Swim. Image credit: X/@sarahblyth

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Toronto/CMEDIA: Thousands of Canadians across the country celebrated New Year with the long-standing tradition of polar bear dips.

Canadians have been marking New Year’s Day since at least 1920 with plunges into lakes, oceans and rivers made frigid by typical January conditions by scheduling events in cities spanning Halifax to Vancouver to maintain the ritual.

With temperature around -5 C, swimmers stripped off their winter jackets, mittens and hats and went off into the icy waves.

Monday’s swim, while launching new traditions for some, also marked a departure from New Year’s Days past in Halifax.

For many years, swimmers jumped into the ocean from a city wharf as part of the Herring Cove Polar Bear Dip.

The 2021 dip event by the non-profit organization, the Herring Cove Polar Dip organization that put on the event since 1994 had reportedly been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has not resumed since.

Small groups of cold-water swimmers throughout Nova Scotia were expected to do their own polar plunges with more than 20 swimmers in Halifax taking an icy plunge into the Northwest Arm at Sir Sandford Fleming Park.

Outside temperatures for the Toronto city’s 104th event being 6 C,  participants, some dressed as Elvis or wearing hats shaped like rubber ducks, took the plunge.

Similar events, many of which were intended to raise money for charity, were set to take place in locations including Charlottetown and Saint John, N.B.

In Oakville, Ont., a city just west of Toronto, roughly 850 people took part in a plunge at Coronation Park.

The swim in Lake Ontario was intended to raise money for charity World Vision Canada.

CEO Michael Messenger said this year’s dip has so far raised $100,000 towards projects that help provide clean water in developing countries.

With substantially larger crowds due to warmer weather people from across Metro Vancouver descended on English Bay, located in the West End in Vancouver’s downtown peninsula beach on New Year’s Day as part of the annual Polar Bear Swim, which has run for over a century.

Last year, around 6,000 people showed up to have a dip in the freezing cold waters of English Bay,

Thousands of swimmers braved the cold waters, with the cool winter breeze making it feel like 6 C. Many of them were wearing costumes.