As others cheered in the New Year with music, wine and revelry, a daring few welcomed the year in an unique style - swimming in ice-cold waters.

For 13 years now, members of the Forever Young Club here have been performing this daring act, sending a message to the people to face the challenges of life with strength.

At the stroke of midnight, as resounding fire-crackers and bellows greeted the New Year in this chilling hill city, a group of 19 members of the club here jumped into the ice-cold pool waters where the mercury was nearing zero degree Celsius.

To make things even chiller, twenty ice-blocks weighing 50 kgs each were lobbed into the pool even as the mercury was dipping to below five degrees.

Leading their way was 53-year-old Michael Syiem, the president of the club and an even older K Syiemlieh.

“This (midnight swimming) is to welcome the New Year from the very first second with a prayer to God for strength and wisdom to face the challenges of life,” Mr. Syiem told PTI, quivering as he came out of the waters after a five-minute swim.

“Nowadays celebrations mean drinking and frolicking. But this swimming is a different and sober kind of celebrations, which has more to do with determination and strengthening of the inner self to face the challenges of life,” he said, adding that such a gutsy act would help the participants to take firm resolves for their future.

No intoxicants were allowed to the participants before the event, as the organisers felt drinking would negate the objective of the event.

“May be this is the reason why I haven’t had to check my blood pressure and sugar till date,” quipped another participant who is in his late forties.

Among others in the group was 11-year-old Danzeal, the state’s youngest swimmer, who appeared to have been swayed by the others to go for the dip.

“It was nice. I liked it,” he exclaimed, unable to speak as he came out of the pool.

A similar custom of midnight swim to welcome the new year is also prevalent in Argentina and some parts of Russia.