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Belgians take cold plunge for New Year’s tradition

10:11 03/01/2024

A number of Belgian residents have taken part in the annual New Year’s tradition of a cold plunge into one of the country’s lakes on 1 January.

The Lacs de l'Eau d'Heure was a popular spot to take the icy dip, with more than 100 people ringing in the new year with the tradition.

“It's a tradition that comes from the Scandinavian countries and that we introduced here,” said Floris Vanveen, organiser and director of the Plate Taille holiday village at Lacs de l'Eau d'Heure.

“Now it's become a big thing. Back then, there were 10 of us diving. Now there are 150 of us diving and it's a great atmosphere. It's a great way to start 2024.”

Meanwhile, in Brussels, almost 150 people took part in the first winter dip of the season in the Anderlecht outdoor swimming pool Flow, with initiator Paul Steinbrück of Pool is Cool making the necessary preparations.

Under the banner 'Pool is Cold', anyone who wants to can come and test the water there every Sunday between 10.00 and 12.00. Reservations are not needed, but a donation of at least €5 is requested.

“A survey this summer showed a lot of interest,” said Steinbrück, who will also participate.

“As many as 150 people asked me to keep them informed about the initiative. I've been training myself with cold showers for weeks and hope to stay in the pool for at least a minute. The water is 8°C now, which isn’t too bad.”

Volunteers helped remove the many algae - there is no chlorine in the water, as it is a natural pool - and repairs were made to facilities following previous acts of vandalism.

While no hot showers are available, tea will be provided on site for those who take the plunge.

“It's better to boost your temperature with a hot drink anyway – an immediate shower can lead to a sudden drop in blood pressure, possibly causing you to faint,” Steinbrück said.

"It’s definitely not a competition. The rule of thumb is that you can stay in the water as long as the temperature indicates - so 8°C equates to a maximum of eight minutes, but above all keep it comfortable for yourself."

Written by Helen Lyons