Say goodbye to 2020 and hello to 2021 with this modern and classic New Years Day Traditions list.
Celebrate the new year in style with any of these New Year’s Day Traditions. Unfortunately, NYE looks a bit different in 2021, and many New Year’s traditions need to be changed if not abandoned altogether. Even if it is not possible to attend a New Year’s Eve Party in 2021, we can all ring in the new year with these fun New Year’s traditions from around the world. Celebrating New Year’s Eve with kids? Plenty of these ideas can be used for kids’ New Year’s Eve party at home.
Common New Years’ traditions include everything from toasting the new year, kissing a loved one at midnight, making goals or resolutions, and eating a traditional New Years Day meal. In 2021, New Years’ celebrations may not be the same as the years gone by, but we can still fill them with meaning, joy, and good fortune using any of the fun ideas listed below.
During ancient times many New Years’ celebrations were held during the spring equinox and the winter solstice. Today, the Gregorian calendar holds sway over the day that most choose to celebrate the new year. According to this calendar, December 31 is New Year’s Eve, and January 1 is New Year’s Day. The Chinese New Year, also called the Lunar New Year, is another new year celebration in February. Information about the Chinese New Year can be found HERE and HERE.
New Years Traditions and Celebration Ideas
Looking for fun things to do on New Year’s Eve? People around the world ring in the New Year in all sorts of fun traditional ways. Even though NYE doesn’t look the same in 2020, and New Years’ traditions need to be changed slightly, to celebrate 2021 safely, there are still many fun things to do on New Year’s Day.
Below you will find two separate lists filled with modern and classic New Year’s Traditions. The first list of ideas is filled with New Year’s Eve traditions. The second list shares New Years Day traditions or things to do on New Years Day.
Remember that neither of these lists is filled with mandatory New Year’s rituals that you must do. My friends and family don’t do everything on this list of New Year’s ideas, and you shouldn’t have to either. As you may notice, a few would be impossible to complete together, which makes it silly even to bother!
Make your new year’s celebration special by choosing at least one thing to do on New Year’s from the lists below. Remember, if it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth it. You may also enjoy learning more about Christmas Traditions and Easter Traditions.
2021 New Year’s Eve Traditions
1. Host or Attend a Zoom New Year’s Eve Party
Feeling lonely, invite friends and family to a New Year’s Eve Zoom Party, or attend one you know a friend or a family member is having.
2. Dress to Impress
In the days of old everyone put on their best clothes for Christmas and New Years’ celebrations. It is traditional in Brazil to wear all white on New Years’ as a symbol of good luck and peace.
Even if you will only be ringing in the New Year in the comfort of your own home–zoom New Years’ eve party or not–wash off the OLD year, clean yourself up, and dress to look your best! Whether you choose to wear all white or dress up in your best cocktail dress, do it in style!
3. Decorate for New Years
Add sparkle, shine, and traditional New Year decorations to your holiday decorations for your New Years’ celebration, if only for the members of your own household. Just because large group gatherings are not recommended for NYE 2020-21, that does not mean that we can’t decorate our homes and party like it’s 1999–lol! At the very least, decorating for the New Year gives us all something to do during the dark days of winter and makes the house look spectacular!
4. Place Coins on the Windowsill
Put money on a window sill before midnight on New Year’s Eve. Bring the coins in on New Years Day as a symbol of bringing money into the house to experience abundance all year long. Some say that this is an Irish New Year’s Tradition, while others claim it Italian. I like to think some traditions are so meaningful and relevant that they are universal.
5. Light Up Your Celebration
In many cultures, the new year is a celebration of light and the birth of the sun. Although it is traditional to light fireworks to celebrate the end of one year and ring in the next, it is illegal to light them in many places. To top it off, many New Year’s Eve firework shows have been canceled in 2020-21.
Not to worry, there are lots of other fun ways to bring a light-filled celebration to your evening. Light some sparklers (if they are allowed where you live), fill your home with candlelight, hang up the disco ball, enjoy a lava lamp, or hang strings of sparkly lights throughout your house or backyard.
6. Count Down to Midnight
Observing the time and counting down to the stroke of midnight and the year’s changing is an NYE Tradition not to be missed! If you have little ones at home or can’t stay up that late, count down to the new year in another country or state. It’s the new year, every hour somewhere!
For example, if you live in Hawaii, and have a toddler at home, watch the ball drop LIVE in New York City. This way, your child can count down to the new year and still get a good night’s rest. Afterwards, you can stay up and count down to midnight once your child goes to sleep–if you can make it that far–lol! As a parent, my husband and I find it a lot harder to make it to midnight than before children!
7. Make Some Noise
Get out the noisemakers, and turn spoons into drumsticks and pots and pans into drums and tambourines; if we can’t spend the night ringing in the new year at parties with friends and family, how about coming together in spirit with the sweet sound of a community bing, bang boom when the clock strikes midnight in your neighborhood.
8. Watch the Ball Drop–Virtually
The ball drop in New York’s central square has become a classic New Year’s Eve tradition in the modern world. The ball is dropped at 11:59 PM ET and comes to a rest at midnight to signal the new calendar year’s beginning. Learn all about the NYE ball drop in Time Square and fun facts about its history HERE.
Because it is unsafe to have people gather in Times Square to watch the event, NYE 2021 will NOT be open to the public this year. (source) Fortunately, you can watch or mobile stream the commercial-free webcast of the Time Square 2021 NYE ball drop on Time Square’s official website TimeSquareNYC.org.
Tune in on Thursday, December 31 at 3 PM ET to watch the live stream commercial-free, webcast coverage of the festivities leading up to the Ball Drop at midnight, including backstage access, behind-the-scenes stories, and interviews with performers and other celebrities.
9. Start the Year off with a Kiss
The NYE tradition of kissing at midnight is one of those NYE traditions we should shy away from this year. Unless you share households, this age-old New Year’s custom is discouraged and has even been banned in some places due to COVID-19.
A kiss on New Year’s Eve may have its origins in the Scottish end of the year party called Hogmanay, their traditional word for the last day of the year. At a Hogmanay party, it is traditional to kiss everyone in the room at the stroke of midnight. In ancient times Hogmanay was a pre-Christmas festival associated with the winter solstice, while today, Hogmanay is most often celebrated on the night of December 31.
10. Sing “Aude Lang Syne”
One of the most classic New Years Traditions is singing “Aud Lang Syne” to greet the new year. When the clock strikes midnight on December 31, one of the first things likely to be heard amongst the sound of fireworks and cheers of “Happy New Year” is the song “Auld Lang Syne.”
Although most casual listeners are baffled by the lyrics and confused about the song’s meaning, 2021 is the perfect year to honor this age-old New Years Day Tradition. The words ring more true today than they ever did.
Opening "Aud Lang Syne" Song Lyrics Should auld acquaintance be forgot And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot And days of auld lang syne?...
…the phrase “auld lang syne” is not recognizable to English speakers because it is a Scottish phrase, not an English one. Translated literally it means “old long since,” but the meaning is more like “old times” or “the olden days.”(source)
11. Toast to the New Year
Starting the year off with a New Years Toast is one of the most traditional ways to ring in the new year. Some claim that it must be a champagne toast, and the cork must be popped at the stroke of midnight. Others believe it is proper to clink glasses while looking fellow partygoers in the eyes as you toast to the New Year at the stroke of twelve. A few more wait to make their toast at a New Years Dinner celebration. (Have a look at the list of traditional New Year’s foods in the next section!) No matter how you choose to toast the new year, do it with gusto, a few words of wisdom–if only spoken silently–and peace in your heart.
12. Eat 12 Grapes at Midnight
Here’s a New Year’s Tradition common in Spain and parts of Latin America that make it virtually impossible to kiss your significant other at midnight and toast to the new year at the same time.
At the first stroke of midnight, pop one grape in the mouth, and continue with one grape for every stroke of the clock until the final stroke of twelve is reached. As one does so, it is important to think about each month of the year in turn.
In other words, on the first stroke of midnight, eat one grape and consider the fortune it will bring in January; on the second stroke, eat a second grape and think of the prosperity it will bring in February, and so on.
This New Year’s Tradition is thought to bring luck to each of the twelve months of the New Year, but be mindful, one must concentrate fully and finish before the final stroke of midnight, or ill fortune will be brought to fruition. Forgive the pun–lol! Learn more about this traditional New Year’s Eve ritual HERE.
New Years Day Traditions – 12 Fun Things to do on New Years Day
This list of New Years’ ideas is filled with fun things to do on New Years Day. From classic New Years’ traditions such as making New Years’ resolutions to the modern alternative of choosing a word for the year, you can find it all here!
1. Brave the Cold Water and Go on a Polar Bear Swim in the New Year
A traditional thing to do across the globe on New Year’s day is to jump in the cold water to refresh and invigorate the body-mind to wash off the old year and prepare for the New Year. Think of it as a giant “reset” button or baptism of sorts.
As a retired ocean lifeguard, I have both watched and enjoyed the follies of completing a New Year’s day swim many times. Traditionally held on New Year’s Day, participants plunge into a body of water and brave the low temperature as a rite of passage into the next year.
Unfortunately, many Polar Bear swims have been canceled this year, but that’s no reason not to find your own space to swim as a family. Hit the water with your household to see which one should be declared the “rotten egg.” If you dare to try this age-old New Year’s tradition, please make sure you have plenty of towels, clothes, and warm drinks to bundle up and enjoy once you’re finished with your New Year’s swim.
2. Make Wishes on a New Year’s Wish Tree
A wishing tree is a lovely New Years’ tradition for children and adults. Use bare branches, decorate a twig tree, or transform a Christmas tree into a New Year’s wish tree. If you would like to use your Christmas tree, remove the ornaments and leave the lights to prepare it for wishing ornaments.
Once you have decided on the tree that you will use to decorate as a New Years’ wish Tree, invite friends and family to write their New Years’ wishes onto wishing star ornaments, gift tags, or scraps of paper tied with twine. Encourage everyone to write wishes for themselves, others, their communities, and the Earth. Next, hang them on the tree to help bring them to fruition in the new year.
3. Enjoy a Traditional New Years Day Meal
A common way to celebrate the New year is to prepare and serve a traditional New Years Day Dinner. Cultures worldwide have different ideas of what foods should be consumed on New Year’s day and why. In many cultures, anything round is worthy of eating on New Years Day because circular foods resemble coins and represent money. Consuming round foods is therefore thought to bring abundance in the New Year.
A classic example of a traditional New Year’s Day meal is Hoppin’ John with Greens. Many southerners believe that eating this classic New Years’ dish containing black-eyed peas, pork, and rice will bring peace and good fortune into the new year. Learn more about Hoppin John with Greens, and grab the recipe over on Serious Eats. A few more traditional foods to serve on New Year’s Day are listed below.
Traditional New Years Day Foods
- 12 grapes at midnight – As mentioned in the list of New Year’s Eve traditions above, it is a tradition to pop one grape in the mouth for every stroke of the clock until the stroke of midnight is reached. This New Year’s Tradition is thought to bring luck to each of the New Year’s twelve months.
- Black-eyed peas – Believed to bring prosperity and good luck in the south, black-eyed peas are often served on a bed of collard greens called Hoppin John with Greens on New Year’s Day.
- Greens (Collards, Kale, Green Beans, Brussel Sprouts) – The color green symbolizes luck in many cultures and is thought to bring health to those that eat them. Eat greens on New Year’s Day as a symbol of health and good luck.
- Cabbage – Because it resembles the color of money, cabbage has long been associated with luck and good fortune in Ireland, Germany, and parts of the US.
- Lentils – Because of their coin shape, eating lentils on New Year’s Day is thought to bring good fortune to the year ahead.
- Pork – Eat pork on New Year’s Day as a symbol of wealth and prosperity.
- Fish – Since they swim in schools (abundance) and only swim forward, eating fish is considered a symbol of abundance, good luck and can help you move forward into the New Year.
- Noodles – Many Asian cultures eat long noodles on New Year’s Day to symbolize living a long life. But be mindful not to break the noodles as you slurp them up. A broken noodle is thought to break one’s life span. Eat with care!
- Pomegranate – In Turkey and the Mediterranean, pomegranates are eaten on the New Year as a symbol of fertility, abundance, and good luck.
4. Go on a New Year’s Day Walk
A traditional thing to do in the New Year is to head out on a walk into the new year. Say goodbye to 2020 and hello to 2021 with a family walk in the great outdoors. Looking for fun things to do outside? Have a look at this list of outdoor activities to try with the kids!
5. Rest and Do no Work
It is considered bad luck by many cultures to do any work on New Years Day. This includes cleaning your house, sweeping, and washing your hair. Doing so was thought to clean, sweep, or wash the good luck for the year away. So rest easy, and don’t lift a finger until tomorrow. Your luck in the New Year just might depend on it!
6. Call or Send New Years Greetings to Friends and Family
If you haven’t already sent Christmas cards, New Years’ is a great time to send seasons greetings to friends and family. Because sending Christmas cards is so common, they usually carry greetings for the new year as well. If not, send holiday greetings in the new year!
The New Year is also a great time to send Thank you cards to friends and family to thank them for any gifts they have given, material or otherwise. If you like to make homemade cards, send friends and family fingerprint snowman thank you cards, or “Thumb-buggy” thank you cards.
7. Make New Year’s Resolutions or Goals
A New Year’s resolution is when a person resolves to make a positive change to improve one’s life or resolves to accomplish a personal goal. Resolutions often have to do with changing undesirable traits and behaviors and implementing positive good habits.
In other words, a New Year’s resolution is a promise to yourself that you will change something and do it differently in the new year. This is why resolutions are most often made at the end of a year as the new year begins. The primary goal is to improve life in the coming year. Some common examples of New Year’s resolutions are; exercising more, losing weight, quitting smoking, or eating less junk food.
Making resolutions for the new year is a tradition that has changed much over the years. The problem with resolutions is that most people fail to accomplish them. One of the primary reasons people most often fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions is because they are not specific enough. For a new years resolution to be effective, it needs to be made into a SMART goal instead of an arbitrary statement one hopes to achieve.
8. Choose a Word for the New Year
Choose a “word of the year” to stay motivated and keep you on the road to success in 2021. Choosing a word to represent the new year is a fun way to energize the New Year. Instead of making a New Year’s Resolution that you can’t keep, a word of the year can be a constant yet gentle reminder to focus on creating positive change in your life. Download this FREE list of inspirational words to choose your word of the year!
9. Set Intetions
New Year’s resolutions and lofty goals can make us feel pressured to perform while setting intentions and positive affirmations can act to align us with our purpose. Our unconscious habits will cause us to fail if we don’t consciously work to overcome them.
Setting positive intentions can help change our negative thinking, and changing our thinking is the first step toward changing your life. Limit negative thinking by creating intentions and turning them into positive affirmations to achieve our goals and realize our dreams.
10. Start a New Planner
Make a plan for the new year with a new planner. Use it to write down your intentions, affirmations, priorities, and goals, and use it as a starting point to start 2021 on the right foot. Start by planning your daily routine or rhythm. If you don’t begin the year with a plan how do you expect to get where you want to go?
11. Meditate or Practice Yoga
Set the tone for 2021 by meditating or practicing yoga on New Year’s Day. Meditation and the practice of yoga can help us see clearly into the New Year. Take a seat, or get on your yoga mat to shed the old and make room to receive the new year.
12. Begin the Year with an Attitude of Gratitude
The quickest way to feel better about your life is to feel grateful about everything in it–the good, the bad, and even the downright ugly. Believe it or not, many good things can come out of tragedy. After my family lost our property to wildfire in 2018, I know first hand the healing effects that gratitude can have on the body-mind.
If you want to be happy, gratitude, and grateful thinking are a sure-fire way to bring more joy and happiness into your life. Gratitude activities and crafts can provide a simple way to help cultivate an attitude of gratitude at home or in the classroom. Use gratitude journal prompts, grateful worksheets, and gratitude crafts to bring more joy into your life!
New Year’s Eve 2021 Celebration Ideas
Although NYE looks a bit different in 2021, and many New Years’ traditions need to be changed slightly as a result, there are still lots of fun things to do to celebrate and ring in the new year in style!