Dutch Language Blog

This Is THE Dutch Tradition If You Like Cold! Posted by on Jan 6, 2020 in Culture, Dutch Language, Dutch Vocabulary, News

Gelukkig nieuwjaar, everybody! The jaarwisseling (turn of the year) marks an opportunity for many people to finally go get some of those goede voornemens (good resolutions) done! But for many Dutch people, it also means taking a moedige (courageous) step into cold water… Literally. Here’s all about a crazy cold Dutch tradition: the nieuwjaarsduik (New Year’s dip).

What is this nieuwjaarsduik?

Every year on January 1, thousands of Dutch people with a taste for freezing cold water temperatures get out their bathing suits and make their way to the beach or the bank of another body of water. Once there, they gather with many others to run into it! Counting down from 10, everybody charges into the waves at the same time.

While the idea is originally from Vancouver, Canada, where it has been organized ever since 1920 by the Polar Bear Swim Club, and therefore known as a polar bear plunge, the Dutch tradition is one of the largest in the world. While more than 200 are organised all across the Netherlands, the one on the strand (beach) of Scheveningen is one of the most visited, with over 10,000 deelnemers (participants).

In the Netherlands, the first nieuwjaarsduik was organised in 1960 in Zandvoort. Five years later, the first one was organised in Scheveningen – with only seven swimmers!

The first time that this was put on video was in 1962, which you can see here.



The Nieuwjaarsduik in Scheveningen in 2010. Notice all the orange Unoxmutsjes! (Image by Alexander Fritze at Commons.wikimedia.org under license CC BY 2.0)

While polar bear plunges are held all across the world, the Dutch one is easily distinguished by the headwear – orange wintermutsen (winter hats) with the Dutch flag on the rim and a big Unox logo on the front. Unox is a Dutch worstenmaker (sausage producer), most famous for their rookworst (smoked sausage) that is a side for a traditional Dutch winter dish: stamppot boerenkool (kale “mash pot”). So smart publicity on their end to get in on one of the biggest events in the winter, the most relevant season for their most important product!

In 2011, Unox made a video about the nieuwjaarsduik:

Unox has been sponsoring the event since 1998. Since then, they have expanded their sponsorship to many other events in the Netherlands, and even abroad. You will also find the orange hats on the Dutch Caribbean islands, for example. For all locations, see their website.

Of course, the unoxmutsjes are fun and all, but they also serve as safety. If a mutsje is seen floating in the water, the reddingsdiensten (rescue services) have an indicator for a potential problem. That’s why people are advised to keep the hat on when they dip in.

What a great way to start the year! Have you participated in a nieuwjaarsduik, either in the Netherlands or another place in the world? What do you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.