Every year since, oh, 1860, brave Brits in Brighton, England, have participated in a Christmas Day dip in the sea. It sounds like New York's Polar Bear Club tradition. But this year, in Brighton, the 150-year-old romp has been cancelled due to "health and safety concerns." The city council will close parts of the beach to make sure no one goes for a swim. According to The Express:
Health and safety chiefs fear a repeat incident of a swimmer who needed to be rescued after getting into difficulty near the pier in October.
They also cite the death of a Hastings woman who died during a Christmas Day dip in 2012.
Margaret Tuppen, president of the swimming club, said: "It is a shame to break tradition. I do moan about health and safety sometimes, but the conclusion of the meeting was that it can be quite dangerous—especially when drink is involved. If it means a tragedy is prevented then we support the decision."
How will anyone know if they prevented a tragedy? They won't. That's why the real danger is the decision to arbitrarily end traditions. What is the difference between no more dips and, say, no more Christmas trees in the home? After all, they could fall and hurt someone. Or caroling? Someone could slip on the ice. Cancelling those might mean a tragedy prevented.
But once we are beholden to the precautionary principle, when will it end? Maybe we'll just cancel Christmas—after all, some people could overreact and go into diabetic shock, or be disappointed and suicidal, or try to get the Transformer out of its plastic wrap and suffer a gash that drains their last drop of blood (perhaps ruining the carpet, a double tragedy!).
That may sound silly. It is. But so is ending a 150-year-old tradition over unjustified safety concerns. Why not let the people decide if they dare to have fun or not?