'Nieuwjaarsduik': The Dutch Dive Into Frigid Water For New Year's Each New Year's Day in a town in the Netherlands thousands of people dive into the icy sea water as part of the Nieuwjaarsduik. Local journalist Gertjan van Geen discusses the origins of the practice.
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'Nieuwjaarsduik': The Dutch Dive Into Frigid Water For New Year's

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'Nieuwjaarsduik': The Dutch Dive Into Frigid Water For New Year's

'Nieuwjaarsduik': The Dutch Dive Into Frigid Water For New Year's

'Nieuwjaarsduik': The Dutch Dive Into Frigid Water For New Year's

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/506927787/506927788" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Each New Year's Day in a town in the Netherlands thousands of people dive into the icy sea water as part of the Nieuwjaarsduik. Local journalist Gertjan van Geen discusses the origins of the practice.

ALLISON AUBREY, HOST:

Now it's time for our segment Words You'll Hear. That's where we take a word or phrase that we think will be in the news in the coming days and let you know what it's all about. This week, our word is - well, I might not be able to pronounce this, so I'm going to spell it - N-I-E-U-W-J-A-A-R-S-D-U-I-K?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Hi, there.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Could you please help me pronounce this word?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Noozhersdook (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Nyujersduzik (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Nyujarsduik (ph)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Nyuhahrsdook - duik (ph)?

AUBREY: We asked some holiday travelers if they could pronounce it. It's a Dutch word meaning the dive - the plunge into very cold waters. It's a tradition in the Netherlands and other places around the world, and it's often part of a New Year's celebration. Here to tell us more about it is Gertjan van Geen. He's a sports journalist with Leidsch Dagblad, a regional newspaper in the Netherlands. And he has seen people taking this polar bear plunge. We reached him in Leiden.

Hi, there.

GERTJAN VAN GEEN: Hi, there.

AUBREY: Well, first of all, could you please help me pronounce this correctly?

VAN GEEN: It's nyu-yars-duk (ph). This is some tradition that started, I might say, 20 years or so something. On New Year's Day - so, like, the 1 of January, they go to the beach on the North Sea and they jump into the sea.

AUBREY: Is this supposed to be some kind of fresh start to the new year?

VAN GEEN: I think so. I think it was originated like that. And just people wanted to do something different. And well, they decided to dive into the sea. And probably in the beginning there was just a few people, just a couple of friends or so. And then suddenly, it turned out to be a success. And now there's hundreds and - no, thousands of people doing it.

AUBREY: Now, have you done this crazy thing of plunging into the sea?

VAN GEEN: (Laughter) Actually, I haven't.

AUBREY: You're not crazy enough to take the plunge?

VAN GEEN: Sure. A lot of friends of mine have done it. Maybe I will do it one day, just for fun.

AUBREY: So what's your advice for anybody who might be thinking about trying it?

VAN GEEN: Well, bring towels. Bring warm clothes for after the dive.

AUBREY: You say this goes back about 20 years. But I feel as if around the globe, people must have been taking the plunge into icy waters for millennia, yeah?

VAN GEEN: Oh, of course. There's lots of people in Eastern Europe - I guess it's a Russian tradition to dive into the ice sea. And it's good for your health. It becomes more of a - yeah, a health thing, I guess. Taking cold showers, for instance - there's a lot of people taking cold showers.

AUBREY: Well, you know, I'm going to take your word for that. I don't think I'll be taking the plunge anytime soon.

VAN GEEN: (Laughter).

AUBREY: I think a hot bath might be better for me.

VAN GEEN: Yeah. Well, you could try it once, and you might feel well. Actually, in Sweden and Norway and Iceland - I was in Iceland a couple of months ago, and people are doing it all the time.

AUBREY: That was Gertjan van Geen from the Netherlands.

And hey, if you decide to take the plunge, let me know. Thanks so much for joining us.

VAN GEEN: You're welcome.

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