Thousands of Europeans take icy New Year's plunges

Thousands of Europeans take icy New Year's plunges

The HAGUE - After a long night of celebrating the arrival of 2015 tens of thousands of Europeans saw no better way to begin the new year than to jump into freezing water.

In the Netherlands alone some 50,000 people, many wearing knitted caps in trademark Dutch orange, took a mass plunge in the North Sea, which hovered at a brisk seven degrees celsius (44 degrees fahrenheit).

People in the Netherlands have been greeting the New Year with a sobering swim since 1960, with just a few hardcore bathers taking part in the early years.

"It's a true tradition that gives a fresh start to the year and immediately puts your resolutions into practise," said 30-year-old Martijn, who has been getting his feet wet for 14 years straight.

Other northern European cities saw similar watery forays.

In Switzerland, some 50 costumed revellers passed around flutes of bubbly as they bobbed in Lake Geneva.

In Hemfurth, Germany, where one man took to Lake Eder in a cow print lederhosen costume, participants warmed afterwards in steaming tubs of hot water.

For cities across Europe, the freezing dips are not just a lighthearted tradition but also an occasion to raise money for a good cause, as was the case for those who threw themselves into Northern Ireland's Carnlough Harbour.

While the swims seem to be gaining popularity, the characteristically brief dips don't seem to be getting any longer.

"It's nice once it's finished," said one of the roughly 400 shivering swimmers who dashed into the North Sea in Dunkerque in northern France.

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