15 Fun & Meaningful Things to Do on New Year's Day

This is your chance to start the new year the way you want and make it special at the same time.

Published December 13, 2023


New Year's Day is one of those weird after-holidays that can feel like a bit of a let-down, but it can actually be amazing. The key is creating some special traditions and finding some great things to do on New Year's Day that help you start the year off right.

We've got tons of great ideas that go way beyond turning on the game (though there's nothing wrong with that, too). Get ready to make this first day of a whole new year as special as it deserves to be.

Make a Time Capsule of Wishes for the New Year


Consider the first day of this new year a baseline and think about where and who you'd like to be this time next year. Do you want to accomplish something big like getting into college or changing jobs? Maybe you want more of the same because it's so awesome already.

Get together and write down your wishes for the new year. You don't have to show anyone your wish, but you can if you want. Seal the wishes in an envelope and tuck it away where you'll find it next year (we like putting it in with the holiday decorations). A year from now, you can get together read the wishes.

Start Reading a New Book


The first day of the new year is a perfect time to start the first page of a new book. You can borrow books from the library, order from Amazon, or even make a special New Year's Day run to an independent bookstore in your city (just make sure they'll be open). Then grab a cozy cup of tea or hot chocolate and start reading.

Quick Tip

We love the idea of making this an annual family tradition. You can even get kids involved in choosing the book they want to start reading.

Have a New Year's Day Party


Everyone talks about New Year's Eve parties, but it's also fun to entertain on New Year's Day. Keep it simple with a fun activity like a movie or board game and a buffet of food. You can do brunch or make it something you hold later in the day. It's just all about getting together with people you care about on the first day of the year.

Organize Just One Thing in Your Life


We know the pressure exists to deep clean your house or get every closet in order (just look at the suggestions on all the magazine covers in the grocery store check-out line if you have any doubt about the pressure to reorganize in January), but we like making it a little more manageable. After all, if you're anything like us, you're pretty tired on New Year's Day.

So choose one thing, just one little thing, to organize. It could be your junk drawer or your family calendar. It might be the kids' Lego bin or your art supplies. Organize that one thing and then stop. You've accomplished plenty.

Teach Each Other Something New


We all have things we're good at, and even the littlest members of our family or friend group can teach a skill. Pick one thing to teach each other on New Year's Day. It might be as simple as drawing a great rainbow with colored pencils or as complex as making your favorite food. It's about sharing knowledge and starting the new year with some new skills.

Remove One Commitment From Your Calendar


If you're like many of us, you're probably a little over-scheduled. This New Year's Day, resolve to remove one commitment from your calendar. It might be something you do weekly (a lesson or club that your kids are okay with but that adds a ton to your stress) or something you only do once (that work happy hour next week you don't actually want to attend).

Give yourself a pass and buy yourself a little more chill time for the New Year. We promise you won't regret it.

Write an Affirmation to Help You Through the Year


A New Year's resolution is awesome and all; don't get us wrong. But we like an affirmation better. What do you need to remember about how awesome you are this year? You can keep it simple and general if you want it to apply to a lot of things, or it can be specific for something in your life. The choice is up to you.

We like these as a starting point (but tweak them to fit your life):

  • I do enough.
  • I appreciate all that I am and all that I have.
  • My life is full of magic.
  • I am beautiful in so many ways.
  • I use my talents well.
  • Many people love me.

Try a New Recipe


Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of normal life (and definitely in the chaos of the holiday season), trying a new recipe is just a lot. New Year's Day is the perfect time to give something new a shot, though. Make a whole dinner or just one dish — there's no wrong way to try. And if the recipe doesn't work out or you don't like it, it's not a huge loss. The point is trying the new thing.

Plan an Adventure for This Year


There's a lot of planning and fun during the holidays, and when that comes to an end, it can feel a little blah. Planning your next adventure is a good way to look forward to the year ahead, and it's one of our favorite things to do on New Year's Day.

If you take big family road trips or fun vacations, start brainstorming together about where you'd like to go this year. If you stay closer to home, talk about something nearby that you want to do in the months ahead.

Check in With Someone You've Lost Touch With


Remember the line from Auld Lang Syne, "Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?" A new year is the time to touch base with someone you haven't talked to in a while.

This can take lots of forms. You can call someone out of the blue or just drop an email or text to your college friend or the aunt you haven't talked to much this year. It's about reaching out.

Rearrange Your Furniture (or Just Your Decor)


If you're really on the ball (and we super admire you if you are), you might already have your holiday decorations put away. If not, New Year's Day is a good time to do it — but don't stop there.

Give your living room (or any room) a new look by shopping your house for things you can rearrange. Think trying a new furniture set-up, bringing the throw pillows from the bedroom into the living room, that kind of thing. Swap the drapes for the ones in the dining room or the lamp in your office for the one in your bedroom. No wrong answers here — just a new look for a new year.

Make Snow Sculptures


Do you live where there's snow outside? If you do, a fun thing to do on New Year's Day is making snow sculptures. There's nothing wrong with the standard snowman, but you can go one better by making a snow monster, a cartoon character, or a sculpture of your own dog. Just get out there and have some fun.

Set a Reward for Your Resolution


Making a New Year's resolution is great, but keeping it can be a bit of a challenge. Think about what might keep you committed to your resolution this year. A reward like a new outfit, a hot bath at the end of the week, a new book each month, or anything else you like might make all the difference. The right reward for you is the one that you look forward to receiving.

Quick Tip

Define what you need to do to get your reward and then find a way to track it. We're a fan of the good old-fashioned "X" on the calendar, but anything that works for you is perfect.

Take Some New Year's Day Photos of What You Love


Pretty much everyone has access to a decent camera these days in the form of their phone, so pull yours out and start snapping. Photograph what you love on New Year's Day. It might be your cat, your backyard, your partner or kids, the food you're about to eat — basically anything. The act of taking a photo of it will give you a moment to appreciate it even more on the first day of the new year.

Make a Gratitude Jar for the Year


Speaking of appreciation, we love the idea of making a gratitude jar on New Year's Day. Find a big empty jar and make some decorations for it. Pile some slips of paper next to it, and have a pen handy.

Throughout the year, you can stop and write down something great as it happens. Slip the paper into the jar and go about your business. At the end of this year, take the time to look back through everything awesome that happened.

Start the Year the Way You Want


Consider the first day of the new year an opportunity to do something super fun and meaningful that will help you start the year the way you want. There are so many great things to do on New Year's Day, and there's no reason you need to choose only one. Do what works for you and make this year the best one ever.

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15 Fun & Meaningful Things to Do on New Year's Day