You Have Options
Joining friends and family for a night of celebration is totally an option when you’re choosing to live sober. Although New Year’s Eve is traditionally associated with debauchery, it doesn’t have to be, and you can still enjoy celebrating with family even when you’re remaining sober.
Take a peek at New Year’s Eve customs around the world. Most of them don’t involve alcohol, no matter how synonymous champagne is with the festivities—but many of them involve food.
- In Spain, many people eat 12 grapes at midnight, which represents good luck for each month of the new year.
- Celebrants in Greece eat a special cake called vasilopita, and the person who finds the little trinket baked inside it also has good luck for the year.
- To acknowledge the passing of one year into the next, Japanese soba noodles—made from long strands of buckwheat—are enjoyed both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
- In Turkey, pomegranates are on the holiday party table, symbolizing prosperity, fertility, and good health.
- Prosperity is also the theme in Cuba, where people enjoy the rich fattiness of a roasted suckling pig on the eve.
In the South, it’s customary for many people to enjoy ham or pork, along with black-eyed peas, cornbread, and collard greens to ensure wealth, good health, opportunity, and luck.
Other unusual New Year’s Eve customs include housecleaning, breaking plates, burning scarecrows, jumping off chairs, serving round food while wearing polka dots, ringing bells 107 times—even choosing special underwear of various colors to signify what you’d like to attract in the coming year!
All this demonstrates that regardless of what happens around you, you can celebrate New Year’s Eve any way you like, just as you would any other social gathering.
Celebrate Health and Sobriety
Start planning your sober New Year’s with an acknowledgment of your choice to be healthy, clear headed, and free of previous restrictions.
- Fitness activities are usually popular customs for New Year’s Day, such as polar plunges in the icy waters, 5K or 10K walk/runs, and other options, but there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy them the day before. Whatever form of exercise or physical outing you enjoy, invite friends and family to participate in it. Create a structure of frivolous prizes you find at the dollar store. Then, potluck or barb-be-que afterward to celebrate your achievements.
- Holding a retreat for yourself or with a select group of people helps quiet the rush of the holiday season and allows for introspection on the year past and prepare for the one ahead. A cabin stay provides an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. A spa getaway with a loved one or a group of friends releases stress. Even getting away for just an overnight in a nearby city resets your focus, and the new surroundings can represent opportunities to come.
- Check in with your sober network, and see what those people are doing. Often 12-Step groups have marathon meetings to help people in recovery manage certain holidays. It’s not as dreary as it sounds—there are group dinners, parties with white elephant gifts, and other fun activities so people have a sense of belonging.
Form a New Tradition
While you might not be inclined to flash your underwear (unless that’s your cultural custom, of course!), you can certainly use New Year’s Eve as a time to celebrate in different ways.
- Host a dance party featuring various decades of music. Amp it up a little by inviting guests to wear costumes from their favorite era—the more outlandish, the better. Create a special playlist or let guests take turns being DJs.
- A paint-your-own party is a trend that a lot of people enjoy. You can even invite instructors to your location, and have each guest pay individual fees for canvas and supplies. Set a theme for the painting—could be goofy, could be symbolic, but everyone has a keepsake in the end.
- Plan a board game night, such as a marathon Monopoly or Risk tournament; fast-paced elimination round card games such as Golf, Uno, Phase 10 or Superfight 500; intense word play with Last Word, It’s in the Bag, or Balderdash; or more adult-oriented games, such as Cards Against Humanity or Never Have I Ever.
- Do something to raise money for your favorite charity. Maybe it’s the same organization every New Year’s Eve so you can increase awareness, or perhaps you can change it up each time to spread the joy. Form a neighborhood walk or parade, a car wash, a “knit in,” a miniature golf tournament—whatever elevates the fun and raises funds.
- Hold a chili cook-off, a bake-off, or some other food-related event. The rousing camaraderie is what most people like about New Year’s Eve celebrations anyway, and this type of annual tradition is sure to present many opportunities for it.
Get More Ideas from Willingway
Throughout the South and Southeast, Willingway has weekly meetings which offer supportive environments and hope through recovery. These events are free to alumni of our inpatient rehabilitation center, our outpatient facility, and the public. If you’d like to connect with more people who share your path and are ready to exchange ideas about New Year’s Eve, handling other special events, or life in general, here’s a complete location listing.