Taking a plunge in the icy waters of the Irish sea off Dublin’s coastline is a Christmas Day tradition in Ireland’s capital city.
This is not a feat for the faint of heart. Throngs of hardy Dubliners brave the freezing waters off the Forty Foot in Sandycove, one of Ireland’s most historic bathing spots.
Christmas Day Sea Swimming In Ireland:
Christmas Day swimming at the Forty Foot is a tradition that dates back 250 years.
Irish people swim at many locations along the coast on Christmas Day, but this tradition goes back centuries at the Forty Foot.
Many Christmas Day swims are organized all over Ireland, but the Forty Foot may be Ireland’s most famous Yuletide swimming spot. At least in Dublin we believe that to be the case.
The Forty Foot – Dublin’s Favorite Swimming Spot:
Immortalised by James Joyce in his famous novel Ulysses, Dublin sea swimmers have loved this spot for generations.
It’s safe to say the Forty Foot is a Dublin institution, and on Christmas morning hundreds of brave souls congregate there for their annual icy dip.
In years gone by the Forty Foot was a swimming spot for men only. Swimming trunks, or togs as we say in Ireland, were often optional.
Those days of peaceful skinny dipping for the men of Dublin are long gone. Now both men and women frequent this lovely spot, and togs are no longer optional.
In the winter months these chilly waters are not for wimps.
Rules For Christmas Day Sea Swimmers:
The brave souls who take their annual Christmas Day plunge at the Forty Foot can definitely teach the rest of us some vital sea swimming lessons.
The first rule of the Forty Foot –
Make sure you know how to swim.
These are deep waters – yes at least forty feet deep, hence the name. Once you leave the rocks there’s no footing to be found. So you better know how to stay afloat.
This great water depth, even at low tide, means swimmers can always jump in.
‘Tis mighty cold after a dip in the chilly Irish sea in the middle of winter. Quickly drying your salty skin post-dip is vital if you ever wish to feel your toes again.
Therefore, the next rule for Christmas Day swimming is pretty obvious –
Don’t forget your towel.
It’s quite alright if you stuff your towel into any old plastic bag. Gucci accessories are not important in this neck of the woods on Christmas Day.
The Forty Foot may be on Dublin’s posher south side, but this sea dipping crowd are a hardy bunch, with no time for fashionable statements.
Wear your swimsuit under a loose pair of joggers, or a track suit, as we say in Ireland.
Easy-on garments are essential for post-dip dressing.
Now as you approach the rocky shore of the Forty Foot ignore your quickening pulse, which leads us to the most important rule of all…
Just dive right in.
You’ll never take the plunge if you stop to ponder the situation. Strip off that track suit as fast as possible. Remember the onlooking seals are not laughing at you. They’re simply admiring your blubber
Inhale, then head for the steps.
If you hesitate in front of the foaming waves you are doomed to watch your legs turn a whiter shade of pale, then pink, then a blotchy shade of blue or purple.
Don’t be afraid. You’re probably most afraid of being afraid of going in.
Blank your chattering mind, and be brave. Step down into the water and simply plunge right in.
Before you know it, you won’t feel the cold anymore.
In fact, before you know it you won’t feel anything anymore.
Just a quick dip is all that is required to celebrate Christmas, Dublin style at the Forty Foot.
Once you get in and cover your shoulders under the frigid waters of the Irish sea, you can pop right out again. This is risky business, so limit your under water time to avoid cold shock.
Remember, the emergency services are on stand by for a reason.
I must confess, I’m not amongst the brave Irish people who keep this Irish Christmas tradition alive, each and every year. I’ve got to help cook the dinner. At least, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
Let us know in the comments below if you’ve ever participated in a Christmas Day plunge?
Have a wonderful Christmas and thanks for stopping by to check out this Irish Christmas tradition.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
Here are some more of my Irish Christmas recipes and ramblings: