January 1st

Polar Bear Plunge Day -

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Polar Bear Plunge Day, celebrated every year on the 1st of January, is an event that encapsulates the idea of excitement and daring. This is the day when audacious souls embrace the icy waters worldwide to mark the onset of the New Year.

Often associated with charity events and bonding activities, daring participants view this as an invigorating kick-off to their year. Regardless of the chill, the day is filled with high spirits making it a distinctive holiday in the annual calendar.

History of Polar Bear Plunge Day

The Polar Bear Plunge Day is a fascinating annual event observed in several parts of the globe. It involves bold participants who dive into a freezing body of water, typically during the winter season. Though it’s commonly linked with January 1st, as evidenced by the renowned Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Day, various versions of this event exist, each with its unique backstory.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the precise birth of Polar Bear Plunge Day, but the ritual of bathing in cold waters for health perks is a practice that goes back centuries. This tradition stretches back to Ancient Rome, when people routinely used cold water baths for health and wellness. In the later years of the 19th century, leading into the 20th, “polar bear” swimming clubs sprung up in places with colder climates such as Canada, Russia, the US and the UK.

The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim Club, established in 1920 by a community of passionate cold-water swimmers, is recognized as one of the earliest organized Polar Bear Plunges. This event is held on New Year’s Day at English Bay in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Polar Bear Plunge in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, initiated in 1916, is said to be among the oldest in the United States.

Over time, many comparable events cropped up across the globe, each with its distinct customs. Initially started as a daring winter season celebration and a test of endurance, many of these occasions now serve as charity events and fundraising platforms.

For instance, the “Nieuwjaarsduik” or the New Year’s dive in the Netherlands has been a tradition since 1960, attracting hordes of participants who dash into the North Sea. Today, it is sponsored by a soup company, and the funds collected are donated to charitable organizations. The Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge is another event that supports the Special Olympics.

Polar Bear Plunge Day Timeline

Coney Island Polar Bear Club

The famously hardy Coney Island Polar Bear Club was founded in New York. They continue their chilly tradition to this day.

First Recorded Polar Bear Plunge

Though the practice likely predates recorded history, the first documented Polar Bear Plunge occurred in Boston, Massachusetts.

Charity Involvement

Starting in the 1960s, many Polar Bear Plunge events began raising money for charities, often for local initiatives or to support the disadvantaged.

Maryland's First Polar Bear Plunge

The Maryland State Police Department holds their first Polar Bear Plunge in Chesapeake Bay which would later become an annual fundraising event for Special Olympics Maryland.

Guinness World Record

The biggest Polar Bear Dip in the world had 1,799 participants in Poland and was marked by Guinness World Records.

Rise in Popularity

The popularity of Polar Bear Plunge events has exploded, with hundreds of events occurring around the world every year.

Ideas to Celebrate Polar Bear Plunge Day

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Chilly Charity Plunge

Plan a local Polar Bear Plunge event and encourage members of your community to contribute funds as they dive into the icy cold water - all in the name of a good cause.

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Virtual Polar Bear Plunge Day Event

Adapt to the digital age by livestreaming a Polar Bear Plunge from your own home using a makeshift pool filled with ice-cold water.

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Fun Winter BBQ and Plunge

Combine a refreshing winter dip with a cozy outdoor feast. After the participants take the icy plunge in your backyard pool, treat them to warming foods like hot cocoa and soup.

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Polar Bear Plunge Contest

Channel the excitement of the Polar Bear Plunge day into a friendly competition. Challenge participants to see who can spend the most time underwater, with a prize for the winner.

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Warm Clothes Donation

Celebrate this day by arranging a collection drive for warm clothing. It serves as a timely reminder of the harsh winter conditions faced by those less fortunate.

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Themed Storytelling Session

Coordinate a storytelling session that revolves around tales of enduring the freezing cold. These can either be true experiences or fiction, followed by a refreshing plunge to honor these challenging events.

8 Interesting Facts About Polar Bear Plunge


Traditional New Year Event

Many usher in the New Year by participating in the Polar Bear Plunge, diving into frigid waters as a revitalizing albeit downright bone-chilling challenge.



Some locations feature a 'SuperPlunge' event, which sees daring individuals repeatedly taking an icy plunge every hour for an entire day.


Charitable Cause

A majority of Polar Bear Plunges are intended as charity drives, frequently benefiting bodies that aid those with special needs, such as the Special Olympics.


International Event

While most prevalent in North America, Polar Bear Plunges also occur in various other global locations, including countries like the UK, Netherlands, and South Korea.


Oldest Polar Bear Plunge

The most long-standing Polar Bear Plunge is attributed to the Vancouver Polar Bear Swim Club in Canada, a tradition that began way back in 1920.


Member Certification

Certain locations provide participants with official 'Polar Bear' certification following their first plunge into the icy waters.


Prestigious Club Membership

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club in New York is America's oldest winter bathing organization, with many globally aspiring to become a member.


Unique Costumes

Quite a few participants enhance the fun factor by donning quirky and imaginative costumes for their icy plunge.

Polar Bear Plunge Day FAQs

Next Polar Bear Plunge Day Dates

Year Date Day
2023 January 1st Sunday
2024 January 1st Monday
2025 January 1st Wednesday
2026 January 1st Thursday
2027 January 1st Friday
What is the pattern? Every January 1st

Polar Bear Plunge Day Word Search

  • Cold
  • Icy
  • Winter
  • Plunge
  • January
  • Courage