How many of you would like to plunge into the frigid waters of Lake Superior for a mid-winter “Polar Plunge”? Show of hands, please! C’mon, I know you’ve been secretly dreaming of this for years.
It’s a little late for the 2010 Heikinpaiva Polar Plunge in Hancock, Michigan, but you can start planning for next year. Here’s the scoop. Figure out a crazy costume to wear (pig’s snout, perhaps, or hula skirts, or Miss America contestant or maybe just your bathing suit) and wait inside the Ramada Inn until they send you outside in perhaps 23 degree air temperatures to dive into a hole cut in the ice.
But don’t worry–the water is much warmer! This year the announcer said it was 29 degrees. It will seem like bath water compared to air. Honest.
Last year it was really cold. Really, really cold. It was 4 degrees. You can read about it here. If you look closely at the photos from last year you will notice the steam rising from the frozen lake. Wind whipping around with gusto. I remember tearing in the wind, and tears freezing on my face. It was brutal.
This year, as the contestants will surely tell you, was a piece of cake. I’m sure.
The Heikinpaiva mid-winter celebration comes to us from Finland. Celebrated since 1999 here in the Copper Country,where we have many Finnish descendants, it means “when the bear rolls over on his side”. It also celebrates a Finnish saint, Saint Henrik. You can read more about this year’s celebration by clicking here.
Besides the famous Polar Plunge, one may also participate in boot throwing and wife-carrying, as well as visit the reindeer encampment (two reindeer in a pen), operate a kicksled or a vipukelkka (whipsled). I really wanted to see the wife-carrying, but we missed it the second year in a row. Darn.
People of Finnish descent around here sometimes leave out the words “to” or “to the”. For example, one might say “We go Polar Plunge” instead of “We’re going to the Polar Plunge.” Or “We go Hancock” instead of “We’re going to Hancock.” It’s rather quaint. Especially when one finds oneself leaving out prepositions. I mean, why do we need prepositions anyway?
A lot of college students participate in the plunge. I kind of wondered if our nephew, Doug, who is attending Michigan Technological University, would be diving in. We looked around, but did not see him. Too bad! I wanted a photo of that to send to his parents.
You might be wondering if we will ever take the plunge into our dear Lake Superior. The answer is a firm “no”. I couldn’t convince myself to dive in last August, let alone in the middle of winter.
Therefore, these participants need a round of applause. Good job, plungers! We salute your sisu. (Sisu roughly translates as will, determination and perseverance in the face of adversity.) We really do.
OK. I knew there were some certifiably nutty people living there when I did, but at least we weren’t jumping in the lake in January! I left in 1985 long before this tradition began. Thank goodness! I do remember Sisu…and that it was on a hill on the “new” (they’re old by now I’m sure) cross country ski tracks in Hancock..and that the hill was really really big. I can’t remember if it was just before we went DOWN, or just before we got to the TOP of a long uphill.
My best and congratulations to all the lake leapers. May you be warmed up by now!
Certifiably nutty people…now, now I didn’t say that! (laughing) Although you wouldn’t catch me a’jumpin’ in that lake! I love that you used to live up here. That is so cool. 🙂
Crazy fun! I would’ve done it ‘back in the day’ but I’m scared I’d croak now….I’ll take my Sunday Night Sauna instead. Haven’t the Finns brought us some wondermous things?
Cindy, the Finns are awesome! I love living in a place where so many settled. As for you having a sauna, that fills me with envy. Would like to have a sauna…what a beautiful Sunday night ritual. Enjoy yourself!
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Oh my gosh, Contestant #4 is HYSTERICAL!
Laurie, isn’t he great? Goodness, it was so much fun! Thanks for coming along for the virtual Polar Plunge. 🙂
This was frigidly riotous. I cannot even imagine what that must be like. Seriously, human beings are so weird. Hula skirts in snow… we love paradox! What a very fun post.
I’m glad you enjoyed it, Christine. It was a riot! Frigidly, so. (laughing with you!)
I swam in Lake Superior once as a teenager visiting from hot, humid Ohio. Ended up with hives all over my body (cold urticaria they called it), and spent the next 4 hours sitting in a hot bathtub with a box of baking soda dumped into it, some sort of Yooper home remedy concocted by my Grandmother.
Rae, that doesn’t sound like a fun swim in Lake Superior at all! It is soooo very cold swimming in Superior at any time of year. Here’s what’s strange: our local kids often jump in on a hot day in May! (there have been known to be icebergs still floating in May…) I couldn’t bring myself to dive under last August, although lots of people were swimming by then. Glad your Grandmother had some concoction to help you thorugh your hives.
Wow! So much fun but I get cold just looking at your awesome photos Kathy.
Yep, Terrill, I get cold just looking at some of these pictures too… especially last year!! It was fffffreezing!
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