JUNEAU, Alaska — Dozens of Juneau residents have gathered for what has become a chilling traditional start to the new year.

The adventurous crowd came together Monday on the beach at Auke Recreation Picnic Site to take a plunge into the 37-degree Auke Bay.

The annual Polar Bear Dip tradition began in 1992 when a group of friends wanted to find a new and “invigorating” way to ring in the year, the event’s website says. That first dip attracted just six people.

An event organizer, Rosie Ainza, said the plunge is a “really good way of washing off all of the things that have happened in the previous year and going into the New Year. It’s almost like a pseudo-baptism in a way,” the Juneau Empire reported .

Ainza and Mari Carpeneti stepped in as organizers this year. They have both done the dip for about 20 years.

Rod Morrison has taken the plunge almost every year since 1996, after a friend challenged him at a Christmas party.

“It’s unique and it’s fun,” Morrison said. “It’s cold when you’re in the water, but when you get out, you’re warm. Your body’s circulation goes nuts.”

Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com

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