How to Celebrate New Year's Eve and Day With Your Family

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New Year’s is a holiday marked by a feeling of excitement and renewal. Before becoming parents, many of us have memories of staying up late, toasting the New Year with family and friends, and getting to sleep off our night the next morning.

For most of us, those late nights (and late mornings!) become a thing of the past once kids enter the picture, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still find fun and meaningful ways to usher in the new year.

Celebrating New Year’s as a family can have all the trappings of what many of us value about this holiday. It can be a time to reflect, take stock of our lives—and of course, let loose and celebrate. The only difference is that these moments of reflections and celebrations will likely happen a little earlier than midnight.

These ideas can be used whether this is your first time celebrating New Year’s with your children, or whether you have celebrated for years, but are looking for some new traditions to add to your repertoire.

What Are New Year’s Eve and Day?

Welcoming a new year with reflection and celebration is something humans have been doing for thousands of years. The first New Year’s festivities go back 4,000 years, to ancient Babylon. At that time, the new year was celebrated during the spring equinox, a time of year symbolizing rebirth. This celebration lasted 11 days and also honored the Babylonian mythological god Marduk.

It wasn’t till 46 B.C. when Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar that civilizations began to celebrate the new year on January 1st. Even after this, New Year’s was celebrated at different times in Western culture, including on December 25th, to honor the birth of Jesus, and March 25th, as part of the Feast of the Annunciation.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII declared January 1st as New Year’s Day; gradually, most of the world adopted this as New Year’s Day as well. Still, many cultures and religions celebrate their traditional New Year’s at different times. For example, the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) is celebrated in the fall. Chinese New Year is based on the Lunar Calendar and usually begins in late January or during the month of February.

When Is It Celebrated?

New Year's is celebrated as a two-part holiday. New Year’s Eve, which falls on December 31st, is the first part of the holiday, and New Year’s Day, which falls on January 1st of the following year, is the second part of the holiday. Most businesses, including state and federal institutions, are closed on January 1st.

Why Is It Celebrated?

The month of January, when the New Year is celebrated, is named after the Roman god Janus.  Janus is known for having two faces, which means he can look back at the past, while simultaneously looking ahead to the future. This is the perfect symbol of what the new year represents to many of us: a time to reflect on the past year, while also thinking about how we can grow and improve in the coming year.

New Year’s celebrations reflect the hope that many of us feel as the new year is welcomed. It’s a time of excitement, but for many of us, it’s also a time of introspection, and an opportunity to make changes so that we can live more fulfilling lives. Celebrations reflect these themes and often include gathering with loved ones, drinking champagne, watching the ball drop on Times Square, and writing and sharing new year’s resolutions.

Different cultures have different ways of embracing the spirit of New Year’s. In the Southern United States, for example, some people eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, to symbolize future financial success. In many Spanish-speaking cultures, the new year is welcomed by eating a dozen grapes, which are meant to be a symbol of hope.

Family-Friendly Ways to Celebrate New Year’s Eve & Day

New Year’s marks the end of the holiday season, and most of us parents are exhausted at that point! But celebrating New Year’s with our children can be simple, inexpensive, and a ton of fun. You might even find that it becomes a favorite holiday for you and your kids, with many opportunities to make meaningful and lasting memories.

Do a New Year’s Eve Countdown…Only Earlier

There is nothing like counting down to the new year, and it’s something that kids are as excited about as adults. Of course, most kids have a bedtime that is much earlier than midnight. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do a New Year’s countdown with them. After all, it’s midnight somewhere in the world, even at 7 or 8pm.

Netflix offers a bunch of animated kid-friendly New Year’s Eve countdowns that you watch together as a family. You can go to YouTube and find a video of the ball dropping on Times Square. Don’t forget the sparkling cider!

Have a Kid-Friendly New Year’s Eve or Day Party

Kids love parties, and it’s easy to make a kid-friendly version of a New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day party.

For a New Year’s Eve party, make sure to purchase some sparkling grape juice or sparkling cider. You can even get disposable champagne glasses (or use glass ones, but at your own risk!). Blowers and other noisemakers are a kid favorite too. Dressing up with New Year’s hats and sunglasses displaying the new year is always fun as well.

New Year’s Day parties can be celebrated with the whole family, and even the extended family. You can serve your family’s favorite foods, or go with a traditional New Year’s dish, like black-eyed peas. New Year’s Day parties are also a great time to discuss and share New Year’s resolutions.

Try a Balloon Drop!

If you want to partake in something akin to the ball dropping, you can try a balloon drop. Basically, inflated balloons are bunched together and hidden in a bag or a piece of fabric. After an exciting countdown, the balloons are released, and the celebration begins.

You can order a balloon drop from Amazon or your local party store. If you are a crafty type, you can make one yourself.

All you’ll need is a bunch of inflated balloons, a large piece of plastic or fabric (like a shower curtain, table cloth, or garbage), some masking tape, and some string, yarn, or ribbon. You’ll cut your piece of plastic in half and then seam it back together, fashioning it with a “pull cord.” This YouTube video has some helpful advice for how to make a winning homemade balloon drop.

Create New Year’s Resolutions as a Family

New Year’s resolutions sometimes get a bad name, probably because many of us set goals that we can’t really follow through on. But New Year’s resolutions don’t just have to be about changing habits or meeting benchmarks. If you are putting together New Year’s resolutions with your kids, you can talk about broader, more achievable changes, such as being kinder to one another, being more patient, and finding more time for togetherness and fun.

Creating resolutions together can be a time to reflect. Ask your children questions like, “What do you love that we do together? What kinds of activities would you like to do more of next year?” Ask your children what accomplishments they are proud of, and what they’d like to achieve in the future. Use these types of questions as a springboard to create some family resolutions together.

Share a Photo Slideshow to Reflect On The Past Year

Many of us have more photos on our phones than we know what to do with. The new year is a great time to go view these photos together, creating a memorable family activity.

You can prepare for this by having all of your favorite photos from the previous year developed and turned into a photo album that you can look through as a family activity. You can also use an app or website, like Canva or PicPlayPost, that will help you generate a fun and entertaining photo slide show that you can view on a tablet, computer, or even your TV.

Have a Family Slumber Party

It’s unlikely that your kids will be able to stay up till midnight, even if they try. But a fun way to allow them to stay up later than usual, and to do something special, is to have a family slumber party on New Year’s Eve.

Get some yummy snacks, cover your bedroom or living room in sleeping bags, and let the festivities begin! You can stay up drinking fizzy drinks, gorging on your family’s favorite snacks, and decking yourself out in New Year’s gear. Any kind of deviation from your regularly scheduled life is always a special occasion for kids, and something they end up remembering for life.

A Word from Verywell

Although you may think that New Year’s is more of an adult holiday than a kid holiday, it’s usually something kids really enjoy. Marking the beginning of a new year is a special experience, and to do so as a family is something that can enrich your child’s life. Plus, so many of the festivities of the new year are loads of fun.

That being said, you have no obligation to celebrate New Year’s as a family. Some of us have mixed feelings about the holiday, some of us would rather celebrate our own culture’s new year, and many of us just feel spent by the end of the holiday season and don’t want to add another event to our list.

Thankfully, there’s no right or wrong way to celebrate the New Year. Just do what works for your family, and leave the rest behind.

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