Every year, on the first day of January, I head down to English Bay to shoot photos of the Vancouver Polar Bear Swim. I think I’ve been doing this for over a decade now. It’s a fun event to watch. There are great costumes, and people have a lot of fun. Some of the same families have been doing it for decades, and it’s a tradition for them.
Jumping into the freezing cold water in the middle of winter seems crazy, (it is.) But I think everyone has their own reasons for doing it.
For some people, the act of going into the water on the first day of the year, is a symbolic act. They’re going into the water with all of the things they carried from the past year—all of their burdens, their pain, heartache, and any other kind of suffering. They’re giving it up. Metaphorically washing it all away, and coming out clean and starting new again. I’ve seen these people.
I see it in their faces as they go in. One of the most touching things is seeing these people go in the water, and then come out, and into the embrace of their loved ones waiting for them on the beach. Renewal. Starting the new year all over again, but leaving the old burdens behind.