At the stroke of midnight Wednesday morning, hordes of beachgoers at the Caribe Hilton hotel in San Juan, P.R., dashed backwards into the warm summer waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Hundreds — here to attend the 27th annual National Association of Hispanic Journalists — were at hand to celebrate Noche de San Juan, the eve of St. John the Baptist Day, a Puerto Rican holiday honoring the island’s patron saint. Tradition has it that you need to leap backwards into the ocean in order to enjoy the full benefits of San Juan’s cleansing spirit. The premise is that at midnight the water becomes purified and healing, washing away all your troubles away.
“Yesterday, I had a terrible day,” said Cecilia Alvear, former NAHJ president and retired NBC News producer. “Everything that could’ve went wrong did. I figure I need to wash away these bad vibes. Who knows? It might work.”
One thing is for sure, journalists at the Midnight Splash couldn’t agree how many jumps it takes to wash away those evil spirits. Some plunged themselves backwards three, seven or 12 times into the night sea.
Alvear, who is Ecuadorian, jumped in the water backwards 12 times. The California resident said she jumped once for each month of the year.
“Refreshing,” Alvear said after jumping in the water for the first time in her black one-piece bathing suit. “I feel renewed. Revitalized. Completely crazy.”
Her husband, George Lewis, a senior correspondent for NBC News who is based in Los Angeles, also participated in the annual tradition for the first time.
“I feel like a new man,” said Lewis, who was dressed in trunks that were color-coordinated with his wife, after dipping in the midnight water three times.