12 Meaningful Rituals to Start the New Year Right

We've got a new tradition here for every chime of the clock on New Year's Eve.

Published December 18, 2023


Sure, watching the ball drop is great and everything, but we love starting the new year with some personal and meaningful traditions. These New Year's rituals are simple and special, and they're easy to incorporate in your celebration. This is an important milestone, so ring it in right.

Light All the Candles


New Year's Eve comes during the darkest time of the year (well, it's technically a little past the winter solstice, but it's all pretty dark there for a while). When it gets dark on December 31, we love lighting all the candles in the house for a glowing and magical welcome to the new year. At midnight, you can blow the candles out to symbolize the end of one year and the beginning of a new one.

Serve Up Some Round Foods


When one year ends, another one immediately begins. Think of it as one continuous circle of time. You can use that circle as inspiration for your feast on New Year's Eve or the first day of the new year. There are tons of round foods to choose from, but these are some of our favorites for starting this new ritual in the most delicious way possible:

  • Pizza
  • Pie
  • Cheese balls
  • Cookies
  • Cucumber slices
  • Quesadillas
  • Quiche

Practice Mindfulness at Midnight


Not every New Year's ritual needs to involve eating or props (though snacks are pretty great). You can also mark the transition to the new year with a few minutes of mindfulness.

As the old year ends, be present in that year. Close your eyes, listen to the clock's ticking, and notice what your senses tell you. What do you smell or taste or hear? When the clock strikes midnight, be mindful of that moment too. When you're ready, open your eyes and start the new year.

Eat 12 Grapes at Midnight on New Year's Eve


One fun Spanish New Year's Eve ritual we really love is eating 12 grapes at midnight. Basically, as it gets close to midnight, you make sure each person has 12 grapes. Then, everyone tries to eat a grape with every chime of the clock.

Quick Tip

Skip this one if you're celebrating with kids because speed-eating grapes is basically the definition of a choking hazard. Same goes for people who've had a few too many glasses of champagne.

Pick a Lucky Charm for the Year


Luck is a pretty subjective thing, and although there are some objects that are considered lucky by almost everyone (just look at a box of Lucky Charms to see some of them), what brings you good fortune may not be what works for your best friend.

We like the idea of making our own luck by choosing a lucky charm for the year as a New Year's ritual. It could be anything from the button that fell off your coat on New Year's Eve to the toy your cat brought you to wake you up on New Year's Day. Basically, it's all about choosing something small you can carry for extra luck in the coming year.

Choose Your Own Adventure for Next Year


When the holidays end, it's easy to feel a little blah and even kind of sad. There's still plenty to look forward to, though. One great New Year's Day ritual is choosing and planning an adventure for the coming year. It might be just a trip to the nearest state park or a new restaurant you haven't tried, but it could also be a cruise or family road trip.

Quick Tip

We also love the idea of interpreting "adventure" more symbolically. For example, you might plan to start a new relationship this year or go back to school or learn a new kind of cooking. If it's new and exciting, it's an adventure as far as we're concerned.

Make a Wish for Someone You Love


We spend a lot of time making New Year's resolutions, and that's totally awesome. But what if we could make a wish for someone else? At the stroke of midnight (or when you wake up on New Year's Day), take a minute to close your eyes and wish something great for someone you love. You can tell them if you want, or you can keep it to yourself.

Leave Something Behind


A new year is a chance for a fresh start, and we like including a ritual that symbolizes what we're leaving behind in the old year. It could be a major habit you are changing or a past relationship you need to get over, but it could also just be a small thing (like being two minutes late every morning or using a coffee brand you actually really hate).

No matter what it is, write it down on a slip of paper. Then find a way to destroy the paper to symbolize leaving the thing in the past. If you have a spot to do it safely (like a fireplace), you can burn it. Otherwise, tear it in little pieces or just throw it in the trash. Time to leave the past in the past.

Write a Real Letter to Someone You Miss


We love the idea of writing a real paper letter to someone we miss as a New Year's ritual. It can be a friend or family member, you college roommate you haven't seen in years, a teacher who made a difference in your life, or really anyone at all. You could even write a letter to someone who has passed away.

The focus here is on getting your feelings down on paper. You can send the letter if you wish (and it will totally mean a lot), but that's up to you.

Make a Really Good Toast


Whether you're having a New Year's Eve celebration with friends or holding a breakfast party after the big night, it's a great time to make a toast. This is a milestone, and saying a few words to mark it is a great way to honor how important it is.

A great New Year's toast follows a simple formula. Say one thing about the year that has passed, one thing about the present moment, and one wish for the year ahead. It's that easy.

Deep Clean Something for a Fresh Start


Cleaning your whole house and starting the new year with a spotless home is totally admirable, but if you're like us and live with kids and pets, it might not be the easiest task. Instead, pick one thing to deep clean. It can be anything from your carpet to your TV remote. Even if there's still chaos in other areas, that one thing will be gloriously, perfectly clean to start the new year fresh. That's the kind of ritual we can get behind.

Start a Journal of Joy


You know those little moments that bring you joy throughout the year? We're talking watching a kid blow out their birthday candles or seeing that first spring robin in your yard. Imagine if you wrote some or all of those things down.

This year, for a New Year's ritual, start a new journal of joy. It can be a  notebook or blank book (or even the Notes app on your phone). The point is, you're going to write great moments down in this. At the end of the year, you can review it and remember the best things.

Mix Old and New Rituals for New Year's


We love these fresh ideas, but there's nothing wrong with the traditional New Year's rituals that have stood the test of time, either. Kiss that special someone at midnight, sing "Auld Lang Syne" and try not to cry, and try something new, too. The perfect New Year's celebration is always a mix of old and new.

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12 Meaningful Rituals to Start the New Year Right