Dedicated people have been getting up early on Christmas morning and swimming in a freezing cold lake in the centre of London for over 150 years!
The Serpentine Swimming Club held its first Christmas Day race in 1864, an H Coulter won that race and took home a gold medal.
The SSC holds a weekly race throughout the year and its Christmas Day event is a handicap race. Entry criteria include members only and that members must have raced in other races during the year in order to qualify.
On Christmas Day, members race 100 yards for the Peter Pan Cup, a cup donated in 1904 by J M Barrie – the same year that the play Peter Pan first appeared on the London stage.
This race attracts international interest and in 1935 it had to be postponed due to the lake being unusually icy. Undeterred, members of the SSC smashed through the ice and swam non-competitively for their annual ritual.
Nowadays there is mixed membership and women are regularly half the participants, however, they have only had a membership for the last 20 years. Prior to 1930, there were no changing facilities for females and this precluded their participation. The Serpentine Lido is only open for the summer season, but the Swimming Club is open year round so that hardy folks can swim in frigid waters, sometimes as cold as 4C.