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Rituals, festivals, holidays

New Year’s Eve Polar Plunge

In the following, my informant told me about a tradition his family has of swimming in ice cold water on New’s Year’s Eve:

Informant: Starting from 2000 this group of old men and women from my close group of friends and families observe a tradition of, uh, cutting  a hole in the ice during the winter on news years day and swimming

Me: Really, where do you live?

Informant: I live in Michigan, so, uh…

Me: And that’s fun?

Informant: yeah every New Years, like, Eve like the evening before, we cut a giant like strip of ice out from, like, cause their dock is like an elephant, so we cut the strip off from there and, and everybody, and the tradition is to start on this uh, its like a deer skin like pelt, and one of the, one of my buddy’s relatives is is like, hes got a lot of Native American in him, which, I dont know what it has to do with anything really, but they start on, everybody starts on this deer pelt, and they jump into the ice water.

Me: How do you cut the ice?

Informant: Chainsaw, depending on how thick it is. Sometime it hasn’t gotten that frozen over yet 

Me: How long do you stay in for?

Informant: I mean, everybody does it differently, like, the kids will just like hop in and get out, some of the other guys will, like, stay in for a while… its its actually pretty dangerous… then you just get out, dry off, and wait for the rest of the people to go through, although when you get out you’re actually warmer; you feel warm because the air feels so much warmer than the water, and your body has this sensation of like, feeling almost numb.

My informant suggested this tradition arose from the Native American heritage of one of his family members. Although he said he was unaware of the specific traditions which led to its practiced, it is now something his family and friends have observed for the past thirteen years, and at least for them it has grown to represent the bonding of family and friendship before the start of the new year.

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