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Originally published Saturday, December 24, 2011 at 7:00 PM

Destinations - A Traveler's Glimpse

Splish, splash! Swimmers take a new year's plunge

Often called the polar bear plunge, it's an annual rite for flocks of hardy North Americans and Northern Europeans.

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WITH WHOOPS of glee and goose-pimple skin, swimmers hurtle into icy oceans, lakes and rivers to celebrate the coming of a new year.

Often called the polar bear plunge, it's an annual rite for flocks of hardy North Americans and Northern Europeans.

In the Dutch seaside resort of Scheveningen, thousands of men, women and children charge happily into the frigid North Sea each Jan. 1. Last year, a record 10,000 people, many in cheery red hats, loped across the beach and bobbed in the waves.

In Russia, swimmers break through ice on ponds for a chilly New Year's Day celebration.

In Scotland, costumed swimmers — pirates, cancan girls and sailors — frolic in the cold sea.

New Yorkers race into the icy ocean at Coney Island, raising money for charity.

Closer to home, Seattleites traditionally take the plunge on New Year's Day at Matthews Beach on Lake Washington. And in Vancouver, B.C., hundreds go cheerfully shrieking into the cold sea off Stanley Park.

Some lucky people do it the tropical way. At Hawaii's Waikiki Beach, swimmers loll in the warm waves at midnight to watch the New Year's Eve fireworks. The next day they're back at the beach for a sunny start to the year.

Kristin R. Jackson is the editor of The Seattle Times NWTraveler section. Contact her at kjackson@seattletimes.com.

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