Standing on a beach on Christmas Day in nearly 20°C heat wearing nothing but a Santa suit over my swimming costume was a first for me, but this year I was spending Christmas on the Algarve and joined a group of 50 or so similarly dressed people to take part in the annual Santa Swim at Armação de Pêra. As the Portuguese celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, when they have the traditional family meal (consoada) and go to midnight mass, Christmas Day has a more relaxed feeling about it.
The Santa Swim has been a regular event at Armação de Pêra for 13 years and is organised by the Holiday Inn Algarve to raise money for local charities (in total €800 was raised for the two charities Espaço Amigo and A Gaivota). Most people (a mixture of local Portuguese, ex-pats and some tourists) came dressed in the felt Santa suit that can be bought cheaply from a well-known online shop. For those who hadn’t got a Santa suit the Holiday Inn were selling Santa hats for €1. Once everyone had arrived, we all formed a circle and sang ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ in English and ‘A Todos um Bom Natal’ in Portuguese. After the customary group photo we all ran into the sea. There was no pressure to go all the way in – the aim was for part of you to get wet. Some brave swimmers did go for an actual swim, while the majority, like me, were happy to let the water come up to our knees. The sea was a little rough near the shore and there were a few people who got wetter than they had planned, but luckily no one was hurt. There were some expert paddle boarders from BlueXperience (cunningly disguised as Santas) on hand, along with the maritime police, in case there were any problems. Surprisingly, the sea didn’t feel much colder than when I have been swimming in September – it’s the Atlantic and it’s always cold! I can’t think of a better way of working up an appetite for Christmas dinner.
Watch our video here.