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Traditional Dutch New Years Dive 2011

Over the years, the people of the Netherlands have come up with some interesting and exciting New Year's Day traditions. Some of those traditions are to be found in the Caribbean, where they are preserved and cherished to this day.

Unique among the various traditions is the New Year's Dive, which takes place on the first day of the year. At noon thousands of people in Holland dive into the freezing cold North Sea. This tradition is observed not only for fun and recreation but to ensure good luck and health in the future. No matter what the conditions, at least 25000 people plunge into the freezing water every year.

The tradition began in 1960 when a swim club decided to welcome the New Year with a plunge in the sea at the famous pier in the Dutch town of Scheveningen. From then on the number of participants and locations increased every year, not only in Holland but in locations around the world including the sunny Caribbean Islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saint Maarten, Saba and Saint Eustatius.

In 1998, Unox, a large food manufacturer famous for its traditional Dutch pea soup and smoked sausages, began sponsoring the event. In Holland, everyone who has taken a serious dive is given a hat, certificate and a cup of steaming-hot pea soup.

In Curaçao, the thousands of hats were barely enough to ensure that all divers could keep their head dry. This year's colorful festival was held at the Zanzibar Beach Club. Mark your calendars! The tradition grows every year and will be even bigger and better at the start of 2012.

Els Kroon is a Dutch former teacher who now lives and works as an award-winning free-lance photojournalist on Curaçao.

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