It’s the question people ask every year – forget Christmas, what are you doing on New Year’s Eve? Have you found a willing house party host or a pub that doesn’t cost £50 a pop to get in? Are you having a few friends round for dinner or planning a major pub crawl into town?
Of course, this year is different. There will be no house parties, pub crawls, or people crammed in a bar. There’ll be no kissing random strangers at midnight, or being so blind drunk you miss the countdown. This year, many of us will be in tier 4 restrictions with a simple instruction: stay at home.
Seeing in 2021 will be a quieter affair – but maybe, after everything, that’s a good thing. “It could actually be a bit of a relief if you’ve always dreaded NYE, but also not wanted to miss out,” says therapist Sally Brown, who is registered with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).
“If everyone is staying in, there’s no FOMO. Not being able to go out is harder on extroverts, though – and people who live alone.”
New Year’s Eve, one of the largest global celebrations across the world, is also a time to reflect on the year you’ve had as you usher in the next one. But is there anything to celebrate about 2020 – or are we just happy to see the end of it?
Since the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus crisis a pandemic in March, nothing has been the same again. There have been more than a million deaths worldwide. People have lost their homes, their jobs, their loved ones, and their livelihoods. Mental health issues have soared. And people working on the frontline have been put under more pressure than ever.
Let’s not skirt around it: it’s been hard on everyone. So perhaps, this New Year’s Eve more than ever is about putting the past year well and truly behind us, and giving 2021 a decent welcome – because whatever it holds, we need change.
Either way, Brown says we should mark it. “It’s been the most extraordinary of years so I think there is a natural desire to mark its passing,” she says. “Celebrating the start of 2021 might also be about hope for a normal life.
“It’s been a tough year for a lot of people that has involved a lot of loss – of loved ones, security, finances, a social life, or a sense of personal freedom. So celebrating will also be about good riddance to 2020 and the ushering in of hope with the New Year.”
Wendy Shooter, a wellbeing psychologist, says the whole point of “celebration” is to connect with joy – so thinking about what brings you the most joy, within the current context, could be a great way to start planning your New Year’s.
What can you actually do, though?
Finding your point on the “embrace it – ignore it” continuum could be a good place to start. The benefit of this year is there is no social pressure to go to a party you might not enjoy, or buy a dress you can’t afford – “it truly is the year to do New Year in your own unique way, there are no rules,” says Shooter.
The best things to have come out of this year for many people have been getting to know our neighbours and looking out for one another, so Brown says celebrating should be about that: connecting with people, whether in person or remotely, and checking in on neighbours.
“The most important thing to do is to have some sort of connection – phone, Zoom, someone in your bubble – with just one person, even if only for a short while,” suggests Dr Sue Roffey, a wellbeing psychologist. “It is important to acknowledge the tough times, but also focus on things to look forward to.”
You could also...
Cook your favourite dinner. Or something new completely. Food is comfort, after all. We’ve shared loads of delicious recipes on HuffPost UK this year, so take your pick.
Remind yourselves what you’re grateful for. You might have been told this over and over again this year, but it does help. Dr Roffey suggests lighting a candle for each thing you’re thankful for. It’s hard, though, to practise gratitude in such unsettling times. Robert Emmons, a scientific expert on gratitude, says consider “gratitude forecasting” if you’re finding it tough. “Imagine how grateful you will be when life returns to normal. Consider simple pleasures that you are currently deprived of, and then visualise experiencing those once again.”
Connect with someone you love. “The most important thing to do is to have some sort of connection – phone, Zoom, someone in your bubble – with just one person, even if only for a short while,” suggests Dr Sue Roffey, a wellbeing psychologist. “It is important to acknowledge the tough times, but also focus on things to look forward to.” Yes, zoom fatigue is a thing – so set yourself a time limit if you’re video calling (an hour, perhaps). You’ll always feel better after speaking to someone you love. Dr Roffey suggests asking each other questions like: What is the best thing you watched this year? What is the kindest thing anyone did for you this year? What really made you laugh? You can also look ahead, asking: What is the one thing you are looking forward to next year? Or what is the one think you are going to do to focus on your wellbeing in 2021?
Watch something brilliant on TV. Rewatching a TV programme that makes you belly laugh, or a film you loved from your childhood is always a winner. This isn’t a time to keep on top of the latest series, it’s a time for a serious nostalgia fix.
Find what relaxes you, do it – and do it again. Journalling, drawing, having a bath, meditating, listening to a soothing soundtrack, tidying, putting candles on, napping, yoga. Whatever it is – now’s the time to do it. As Wendy Shooter says: “If you want to go to bed at 10pm with a good book – then do just that.”
How HuffPost readers will be celebrating
When we asked on Twitter how people planned to spend NYE, many shared the low-key celebrations they’re looking forward to. Find inspiration from their answers below – you might even end up looking forward to the evening.