Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Meadowbrook Community Center Advisory Council will co-sponsor the 12th-annual Polar Bear Swim at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 1 at Matthews Beach (9300 51stAve. N.E.).

Everyone can register starting at 11 a.m. by picking up a wrist band. The plunge starts at noon sharp.

A 2014 Official Patch of Courage will be given to all heroic Polar Bear participants who immerse themselves neck-deep in the lake. The patch will show that participants braved the frigid waters. Warming refreshments will be served.

As in previous years, younger Polar Bears and anyone else who needs a little more room can take part in the Polar Cub Club part of the event immediately preceding the main plunge. For the truly hearty, double-dipping is allowed.

Seattle Parks and Recreation offers a few tips for enjoying a fun, safe swim: 

•Make the plunge even more special by dressing up in a costume!

•Come early, and carpool or take the bus (you can plan your trip at tripplanner.kingcounty.gov).

•If you have heart problems or other serious medical concerns, consult your health-care professional before taking the Polar Bear Plunge. If you can’t go in the water, just watch.

•Don’t drink alcohol — it doesn’t warm you up, and it accelerates hypothermia. 

•Stay in the water for no longer than 15 minutes — you lose body heat 25 times faster in water than in air. 

•Keep your outer clothing on until you’re ready to get in the water. After the plunge, remove wet clothing before getting into dry clothes.

The Polar Bear Plunge was the first official event of its kind in the Seattle area and has inspired other, similar events throughout the region. Janet Wilson, Aquatic Center coordinator at Meadowbrook Pool, started the event in 2003. About 300 people participated in that first Polar Bear Plunge, and since then, the attendance has soared to more than 1,800 people of every age.