Jump into the bay on New Year’s Day; then stay for a broom-hockey tourney in Birch Bay

Since 2012, Birch Bay has held a special event – the Ring of Fire & Hope, on New Year’s Eve. Birch Bay’s beach is ringed with fire when hundreds of people light flares at 7 p.m. Dec. 31, from Birch Bay State Park to Birch Bay Village. During the 30 minutes the flares burn, it’s generally quiet as people reflect back and look forward.

The Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event, will distribute free flares at Birch Bay Visitor’s Center, 7900 Birch Bay Drive, starting at 5 p.m., but bring your own flare if you have one, because the chamber will limit the number of flares for any household to two. Flares need to be “spikeless” (no nail at the end), and need to last 15 to 30 minutes. Flares are also usually available at marine and auto-parts stores.

Also at Birch Day is the annual New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge, which draws hundreds of participants from as far away as Germany, Tokyo, Chicago and British Columbia as kids to seniors take a plunge in the bay’s chilly water. Registration begins at 9 a.m. at Birch Bay Chamber Visitor Information Center, 7900 Birch Bay Drive; costume judging is at 11:30 a.m. and the plunge is at noon.

It’s free, but registration is encouraged because people who do so receive an official “I Took The Plunge” certificate and hot beverages. There are five costume judging categories with prizes: Most Years Plunging; Oldest Participant; Best Individual Costume; Best Group Costume; Farthest Traveled Participant.

This year, because of its success last year and perhaps because of the town’s proximity to British Columbia, Birch Bay Waterslides, the Parks and Recreation District 2 and the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce will host an international broom-hockey tournament at 1 p.m. New Year’s Day at Birch Bay Waterslides, 4875 Birch Bay-Lynden Road.

Each team will be made up of at least six players, who will compete in three 15-minute periods, with the winner taking home the honor (or honour) for their country. Spectators are welcome. To register, call 360-656-6416.