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It is becoming increasingly popular for families and friends to incorporate a dip into wild and chilly waters into their Christmas Day routine. It might seem rather odd to take time away from the roast turkey and crackling fire to, instead, head out into cold weather and plunge oneself into a river or lake, but a greater number of people around the world are doing just that each year.

For those unfamiliar with the practice of cold water swimming, the low temperatures can seem too impossible a hurdle to climb. However, the shock is part of the experience and, for those who begin regularly reveling in the cold temperatures of winter waters, it can soon become so enjoyable that it actively encourages you to head outdoors for a swim.

Cold water swimming is popular for a number of reasons, with many motivators being related to health. Studies have shown that those who follow in the footsteps of Wim Hof and embrace cold water tend to have a stronger immune system, improved circulation, and even a better mood. The adrenaline that surges through your body as you acclimatize to the environment is also a great way to destress, ensuring that only your immediate surroundings are of any concern.

These benefits, however, don’t necessarily explain why Christmas Day has become the backdrop for a festive plunge.

While evidence of the tradition’s origins is largely vague, there is repeated and definitive evidence that communal swims have often been a part of community culture during significant events. New Year, for example, is another holiday that sees many take to the water with their friends and family, plunging into the cold to both celebrate the year past and signify a (very) fresh start to the year.

Many cold water swimmers describe the natural high that occurs from taking a chilly dip, especially when doing so as part of a local community, which is likely a significant reason as to why large groups congregate together in local areas on special occasions. Others simply embrace the unity and cultural affair, wanting to demonstrate the camaraderie felt between neighbors and friends.

If you have friends or family who want to participate in the tradition, it can be easy enough to find a nearby group that will have an arranged time and place to plunge. There are also a number of great gifts for wild swimmers, such as changing robes and insulated flasks, that can be a cherished present for the special day, as well as a motivator to pick up cold water swimming as a regular hobby.

While cold water can have a number of benefits, it is important for those stepping into the water, especially for the first time, to be sure that they have a way to dry off and warm up once back on land. A towel or two helps, as well as the aforementioned changing robe. It is also recommended that first-timers don’t head into the water alone, since there are a number of risks that can be remedied with an extra pair of eyes. Many local Christ Day swimming groups will have organized a celebratory drink after the swim too, ensuring every swimmer is rewarded with a hot drink!

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