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Polar Bear Swims Happening Across Canada On New Year's Day

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You could greet 2016 by staying in bed.

Or you could do it by plunging half-naked into a freezing body of water, cleansing your soul of the toxins from the evening prior.

Canadians right across the country opt for the latter as part of the Polar Bear Swim, an annual event often held on New Year's Day, whose history in the Great White North dates back almost 100 years.

A polar bear swim consists of a jump into frigid waters and emerging when one can stand it no more.

vancouver polar bear swim

"[It's] basically just something to do on New Year's Day to basically start the year afresh, cleanse the soul, so to speak," Terry Courage, co-founder of Oakville's Courage Polar Bear Dip, told The Canadian Press in 2013.

One of the earliest Polar Bear Swims began in Vancouver, where it was founded by Peter Pantages, nephew of Alexander Pantages, who built a string of vaudeville theatres.

Peter was an avid swimmer, and in 1920, he founded the Polar Bear Club, which organized the city's first swim the same year. It has since drawn thousands of people, with a record 2,550 participating in 2014.

People can do the swim in bathing suits, although many opt to do it in costume.

Polar Bear Swims can also be done for charity.

The Courage Polar Bear Dip, for example, raises money for World Vision, while the Toronto Polar Bear Club's event gathers funds for Habitat for Humanity.

Some Polar Bear Swims are held on different dates, but many across Canada happen on New Year's Day.

Here are some events happening that day throughout the country:

Vancouver

Location: English Bay
Time: 2:30 p.m. PT

White Rock, B.C.

Location: White Rock Beach
Time: 10 a.m. PT

Kelowna, B.C.

Location: Tug Boat Bay
Time: 1:30 p.m. PT

Peachland, B.C.

Location: Okanagan Lake, starts at Peachland Community Centre
Time: Registration starts at 12:30 p.m.

Calgary, Alta.

Location: 100 Misty Morning Drive, Elbow Valley
Time: 1 p.m. MT

Oakville, Ont.

Location: Coronation Park
Time: 2 p.m. ET

Toronto

Location: Sunnyside Pavilion Park
Time: Noon ET

Ottawa

Location: Britannia Beach
Time: 11 a.m. ET

Charlottetown, P.E.I.

Location: Charlottetown Yacht Club
Time: 10:30 a.m. AT

Herring Cove, N.S.

Location: Registration at St. Paul's Church
Time: 10 a.m. AT

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