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Check Out These Ideas for Relaxing New Year's Celebrations

It’s coming – that once-a-year blow-out filled with bright lights and festive toasts and late-night binging on mass camaraderie. 

Unless you’re looking for something different. A quiet evening with a smaller group of friends and family, perhaps, with a special dinner and simpler entertainment . . . or even a bigger group of friends and neighbors brought together for a more reflective experience.

I have good friends who have developed traditions from this alternative way to celebrate. Folks who’ve traded high-priced extravagance (and maybe a hangover or two) for a low-cost quiet night that still offers some grand touches. Our neighbor Chris, for example, celebrates with a gourmet dinner, cocktails by the fire and, sometimes, a movie that ends right around his 9 p.m. bedtime.

“It’s always a night of reflection for us – time to think about the year we’ve just experienced and discuss ways to make the coming year more meaningful,” he says. “There’s always some yummy special meal involving lobster or scallops, some very fine Canadian whiskey, and great music in the background while we talk and dream out loud. We might stay up a little later but always get a good night’s sleep to welcome in the new year with a sense of well-being.”

Other Friends Weigh In

Two years ago I shared some details about the traditions Bill and I have enjoyed for years, which generally carry this same sense of reflection, along with our own favorite cuisine that we share with close family members and friends

This week I went to some of our favorite Facebook groups – including one focusing on life in and around Wilmington, and two closer to our home in Lewes and the other beach towns to ask others about their traditions for the holiday.

Spend Time in Nature

Audrey from Rehoboth Beach was one of several who celebrates with a New Year’s Day walk through Cape Henlopen State Park. A lot of people love this idea because you’ve got 5,000 acres of scenic vistas, which can have a calming and upbeat impact on your moods.

Kathleen, who also lives near us at the beach has what seemed at first like a unique tradition – she and her family set their alarm for 6 a.m. on New Year’s Day so they can get out to Cape Henlopen to watch the sun come up, but learned many others do the same. 

Of course we also love Cape Henlopen State Park, but regardless of where you live, you don’t have to go far to find a wonderful outdoor experience. From Wilmington to the southern and western borders of Maryland, there are many places that are absolutely beautiful on a winter day. Check them out at the Delaware State Parks Web site at

Make Special Meals

Gourmet meals and culinary family traditions are another recurring theme in the responses.

Patti, who lives in Lewes, also goes big on seafood both at lunch and dinner on the holiday. 

“Ours is a very ‘shellfish’ New Year’s Eve at home. A friendly scrabble competition in the afternoon accompanied by Crab Newburg, Old Bay popcorn, and Kir Royales, followed by all manner of shellfish for dinner – crab bisque, clams oreganato, shrimp ravioli, scallops and lobster tails. After dinner we watch a romantic comedy from our list of all-time favorites followed by bubbly to ring in the New Year!”

While most people refer to Delaware as a Mid-Atlantic state, you’ll also find a lot of your neighbors relishing southern traditions that include black-eyed peas (for flavor and good luck), ham hocks, leafy greens and cornbread. A perfect comfort meal.

A few folks shared their love for mid-century nostalgia with meals comprised of cold shrimp cocktail, salads with iceberg lettuce, prime rib and a special dessert (I’m thinking “Baked Alaska,” which looks amazing but ambitious 

A few people also shared their love for outside activities close to home. Down here at the beach they love the “Ball Drop” events that ring in midnight in Dewey/Rehoboth Beach and the “Anchor Drop” at the Overfalls Lightship in Canalfront Park.

Lots of people love bonfires and fire pits, where you can gather around warm light to lift your spirits while staying up a little later thanks to the cool air on your face. As Holly, who owns a spa in Camden, shared this wonderful idea:

“We have a family-friendly bonfire, with slow cookers of chili and hot dogs for roasting, and more fixings. Everyone brings a bottle of soda and a dish t share and we run electricity out from the garage to the tables. We turn the radio on so we have music and everyone has a good time ringing in the New Year with the countdown and our own “ball drop” (a paper lantern with a string of lights in it hanging over a big tree branch). Kids have noisemakers and glow-in-the-dark necklaces so they can run all over our yard and play, holler, eat and have a grand time.”