Civilizations all over the world celebrate the end of one year and the arrival of the next in a variety of festive ways.
New Year’s Eve celebrations incorporate many diverse traditions. The ancient Babylonians held religious festivals during what they considered the beginning of another year—the first new moon in spring after the vernal equinox. The Romans followed the lead of Emperor Julius Caesar by establishing the new year on January 1, and offered sacrifices to Janus, the god with two faces who could see both the past and the future. But the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, falls between September and October.
Modern New Year’s events all over the world include gathering with friends and family to enjoy special food customs, watching massive fireworks displays and cheering the drop of various suspended items—giant balls, pickles, acorns, and possums, to name a few!—in the final 10 seconds of December 31.
This holiday lesson, courtesy of The History Channel, demonstrates one key point: if you choose to ring in the new year, there are many ways to do it. You’re under no obligation to subdue your celebration simply because you choose to maintain sobriety.
Plan to evaluate what this time means to you, include any customs or new traditions you’d like to observe, and consider what you’ll do to not let others’ expectations of wild partying on the last night of a calendar year impact your choices.
Is New Year’s Eve Really a Special Time?
Before you feel as though you’re missing out, first determine if this particular night is something that truly matters to you and why. For example, some people think of time in a linear fashion, and use the passing days, weeks, and months to journal thoughts, aspirations, successes, and improvements. Occasionally, this assessment culminates at year’s end, and prompts reflection.
There’s also the aspect of luck and new opportunities. In some cultures, it’s customary to eat particular foods—spinach or collard greens, for example, to represent the “green” of money—or practice rituals or traditions during the beginning of a new year to usher in a change of fortune or experiences. If you’re inclined to think this way, you may choose to follow existing customs, or create new ones with more personal meaning for you.
Then again, some individuals don’t really celebrate birthdays or anniversaries. A lot of people refuse to set New Year’s resolutions. Sometimes, turning over a page on the calendar is simply nothing more than that.
Establish Your Terms
Let’s say you decide to go out: now what? Too often, we can feel wrangled into going out on the town because of some expected societal standard when we’d rather stay home and be cozy. If going out is the consensus of the majority, you still have every right to say what you will and won’t do.
For example, if some people want to hit a loud bar or house party and you really don’t want to spend a whole evening in such an environment, say you’ll go for 30 minutes, and then meet up with everyone later at another location. In the meantime, take in a movie. Join another friend for late-night dessert. Enjoy a local band playing at a club. These and other options allow you to enjoy the company of others without feeling obligated to participate in everything they do.
There are also numerous tips for socializing while in recovery, and each one may play a part on a night when many people like to cut loose:
- Call the party hosts and explain why you’ll only stay a short time. Since they understand your circumstances, they’ll still enjoy seeing you, even for a little while.
- Establish a buddy system. Whether this is someone within your group or another person you can text or call, arrange ahead of time your need to connect if you feel triggered, and how this person can help you.
- Work the event so you can still enjoy the festive atmosphere. Take pictures. Be the game moderator.
- Handle the buffet line. Staying busy and engaged keeps you in the middle of the fun without worrying about what people may think.
- Assume the important role of designated driver. Yes, in our easy car-service-by-app world, this may seem like a quaint thing of the past. But the more safe drivers on the road, the better.
What if you really want to stay in? Do it. Many people weigh the pros and cons of celebrating New Year’s Eve and decide it’s really not worth the trouble.
You can put a positive spin on this by practicing the fine Danish tradition of hygge. Pronounced “hoo-ga,” this sensation swept the world a few years ago as people acknowledged their need to slow down, set devices aside, and be cozy, which essentially is the definition of the practice.
Hunker down, put on sweats you’d never wear in public, and choose your favorite calming activities to enjoy. Nourish yourself with comfort foods, read, watch movies, go for a night walk to look at the stars, listen to your favorite music—the list is endless. If you want to be more social, invite some friends over for games, cards, a jam session—whatever makes the occasion more special.