New Year's Eve

A Step-by-Step Guide to Treating New Year's Eve Like Any Other Day

December 26, 2016

This year, I spent my birthday alone. I ordered an egg sandwich from Seamless for dinner. It was fine! I didn’t want to treat it as some “occasion;” a birthday is just another day, after all.

I like to apply that same philosophy to New Year's Eve, that festive 24-hour timeframe that attracts such fanfare across the globe. Balls plummeting from great heights; celebrities belting on stages. It's all a bit much. The holiday's forced introspection is just terribly stressful for me, too. There’s something quite daunting about having to face everything I didn’t accomplish this year.

So I prefer to just treat this passage of time casually, as I would any other day, with neither smarm nor bitterness. I know I’m not alone. There are a few of us in the world who prefer to see this day as just any other day. For the uninitiated, here’s a primer on how to treat New Year's Eve like any other day, also known as "a look at my routine."

Wake up.

Yes. You must start somewhere.

Recall what you did in the past day.

A year? Please. Remember what you did yesterday. (This is often very difficult for me.) Start small. Tiny. Orient yourself to the present.

Exercise. A baby workout to get the heart racing.

I like to exercise in the mornings. Do a chin-up. A crunch here or there. Squat, if I feel like it. Try it: Set the scene with some jams to pump you up. Work up a bead of sweat that you can gently wipe away with a cloth or linen before you explain, "Wow, what a workout!"

Shower and dress yourself.

Now wasn't that exasperating? Looks like it's time to take a shower. Scrub yourself clean and ready yourself for a day out on the town like you would any other day. Wear your usual sweater, your bomber jacket, your “kicks” of choice. What an outfit! You'll blend right in, visibly invisible. Nothing to see here. Just totally normal.

Eat breakfast; drink a coffee or tea.

If you’re one of those people who eats breakfast, why not eat it as you usually do? This isn't the time to mess with your daily routine. Get a coffee, too, while you're at it. Me? I’m someone who prefers cold brew year-round, every day. “I’ll have it black, Sampson,” I say, subjecting my credit card to more than it can take. And I'll do the same this Saturday, New Year's Eve, another day that is normal. Take a sip; grab a bite. smile.

Saunter around the town.

Well well, isn't someone here a Wandering Wanda? I'm sort of adventurous by nature, and I don't see the need to suddenly change that, and neither should you on this Saturday day, a day. So I think it's time to soak in your surroundings. Walk around, admiring the sights, soaking in your environment like you would any other weekend. Window shop. Glance inside a store. Admire a shoe. Balk at the price! You can’t afford that right now. Today’s a normal day, after all; it's not as if this is a special occasion that warrants treating yourself. It's a day in the life of you.

Exist until lunch.

Languish until you eat what you’d usually eat for lunch! A sandwich. Some tuna tartare. Go crazy. Maybe even invite a friend? I don't know what you do. Personally, I like to go to the hot food bar at my local grocery store and sit in the dining area alone, with my laptop, scrolling through Us Weekly and gasping at the news. Oh my! If you've made a habit of this, why change that for one day?

Take an afternoon nap.

Well that was tiring. Time to head home. Zzz. Sleepyhead, sleepyhead. You’ve done so much. You deserve a break. You’ve earned it! Put that head on a pillow, the same way you usually do. That's it. There's the spot.

Wake up after two hours.

Yawn. That was nice, wasn’t it? And now that it's 3 PM it's dark out, because of Daylight Savings. Amazing. Where did the day go? Doesn't this remind you of what happens to you all the time, every day? Crazy. This happened yesterday, too, and the day before.

Wonder what all the fuss is about.

It’s getting crazy out there. Hear those sounds? That rumble of excitement? All those rambunctious kids, crazy about 2017… weird. Kind of odd, honestly. Don't know what they're all screaming about, these drunkards. Hm.

Run an errand.

Don't mind them. It's time to live your life as you normally do, as if no one is looking. So go to the grocery store. It's not open? Hm, that's weird... thought it's usually open on Saturdays, which are normal days of the week. Wonder what's up with that. Well, maybe get a last minute fixer-upper from CVS. Gather your dinner supplies. What are you cooking tonight? You didn’t decide yet? How typical of you. Last-minute Mabel.

Come home with your bags and pour yourself a glass of wine.

Or a beer. Or a cocktail. Teetotaler? Have a juice. Like you would any other day. Nothing special. Even a glass of water.

Make your usual dinner.

A little pasta; a hearty tofu scramble with some medals of chorizo. Mmm. Dinner, almost indistinguishable from what you had yesterday, or the day before yesterday, two days that are very similar to the day you're living in right now!

Wear some earplugs.

Neighbors... getting noisy. A bit more noisy than usual. They're using party streamers? Noisemakers? Nonsense. Can't imagine why. It's odd behavior for a day that is like most others. Make sure you don’t hear them.

Go to bed.

And now that your stomach's full, it's time to tuck yourself in. Don't want to get cold under there. Good night, sleepyhead; it's been a good day, uneventful and emotionally inert and unchallenging, just like most others.

Shop the Story

...And there you go. Before you know it, it’s a new day. Some might say it's New Year's Day, but don't listen to them. What does that even mean?

How do you like to observe New Year's Eve? Let us know in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Mark
  • E
  • Anne Ilka Armentrout
    Anne Ilka Armentrout
  • Diane Leach
    Diane Leach
  • Rosa
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


Mark December 27, 2016
No, being alone isn't sad. Some people like it. I do; it's a relief from
people. They're fine in public, and I'm loyal to my obligations; but
there's no reason you can't treat yourself well in private.
Mark December 27, 2016
No, I only semi agree with this. Holidays are there to think about some-
thing, if even only briefly. Fine, do your normal day.. but sleep late to
enjoy the time off work. When it gets to the end, maybe use your extra
free time to cook something that you save for New Year's. Have that
special celebratory drink. Think about what you're thankful for, what
happened last year, what you hope for the next year. THEN, go to bed.
E December 26, 2016
Lol. Loved this. I also understood the humor behind it cough cough cough. NYE is just like St. Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day, etc insert overblown holiday/occasion at this point. I mean, I'm still planning on glug glug glugging 2016 away and hoping 2017 is not going the way of the iPhone with a 2016 S version. My birthday is later in January, and I'm planning on it being just like any other day like you did with yours! Very late twenties ain't no funn= no cause for celebration for me. Maybe when the 3-0 hits, uh oh.
Anne I. December 26, 2016
I hate to mention this, Diane, but New Year's Eve is only the seventh day of Christmas. Many, if not most Americans (no doubt driven by Corporate powers and advertising) think the Christmas season begins the day after Thanksgiving and ends once midnight strikes on December 25. That means they largely miss the joys and beauties of Advent and the full twelve day celebration of the Yule. But, whatever!

For me, who has been happily married for forty years, New Year's Eve is a day/night (but not the only one in a year) to share a special meal with my beloved, drink a bottle of champagne, play some games and be cozy. And I love New Year's Day as it is a chance for another new beginning--and yes, the calendar is mere cultural construct-- a chance to reflect and resolve, and, if I'm very lucky, to share a meal that is a hodgepodge of traditions with dear friends.
Diane L. December 26, 2016
I liked your article. I personally hate New Year's Eve. All that pressure! Right after Christmas, no less! Thank you for feeling the same way. Have a wonderful time. Alone. You aren't the least bit sad.
Rosa December 26, 2016
Very sad....just...very...sad
Claire S. December 27, 2016
Agreed - dare to dream a little bigger, Mayukh.
Anne I. December 26, 2016
It's one thing not to want to celebrate a holiday or special occasion the way someone else does, or the way you think society expect you to do, but not to celebrate? -- not to allow/treat yourself to special times? I would advise Mayukh Sen and others of similar inclinations to consider whether they have ever said, "When I have the time, I am going to ___________" and if so, to indulge themselves in the special and guilt free pleasure of doing that whatever.