Resolutions, songs, confetti, parties, noise, and a little bubbly – soon it will be time to usher in a new year. A familiar expression of the season is “Ring out the old, ring in the new” from poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Ring a bell and ask your group of senior adults to share recollections of New Year’s with family and friends. Ask: What was the most memorable New Year’s Eve you ever celebrated? How did your family ring in the New Year? Did you enjoy quiet evenings at home, go out on the town, or spend the holiday abroad? Did you always stay up late to welcome the New Year? What traditions did you celebrate on New Year’s Day? Did you ever host a New Year’s Open House? Invite participants to make party hats, homemade noisemakers, and confetti for some special New Year’s activities. Here are some suggestions for your group:

  • Read or sing the poem “Ring Out, Wild Bells” (from In Memoriam) by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Invite a guest to talk about the hobby of bell ringing, a New Year’s tradition.
  • Talk about New Year’s resolutions. Make a list of common resolutions and chat about how to develop new habits. What do phrases such as “turn over a new leaf,” “wipe the slate clean,” and “make a fresh start” have to do with a new year?
  • Share remembrances and photos of New Year’s family vacations. Name the 10 Best Places to Visit on New Year’s. Ask if anyone ever enjoyed a colorful fireworks display in a foreign city such as Paris or Sydney.
  • Enjoy the song “Let’s Start the New Year Right.”
  • Offer a traditional New Year’s Toast with some sparkling cider or ginger ale. Here’s to . . .
  • Display vintage collectible calendars, e.g., 1940s Coca-Cola calendars. Ask participants what they do with old calendars. Craft a new calendar for the upcoming year with your group.
  • Sing a traditional song about friendship, “Auld Lang Syne,” and reminisce about the “old gang.”
  • Display symbols associated with New Year’s such as Father Time and Baby New Year. What do the images represent?
  • Hang a silver disco ball. Reminisce about the dropping of the ball in Times Square, New York City, on New Year’s Eve. Talk about NBC’s live radio broadcasts from Times Square with announcer Ben Grauer or New Year’s Eve TV broadcasts such as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson or Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.
  • Learn to say “Happy New Year” in different languages, e.g., in Spanish – Feliz ano nuevo. Talk about New Year’s customs around the world.
  • Explore popular nonalcoholic community New Year’s Eve celebrations for families, e.g., First Night, which began in Boston in 1976.
  • Show photographs of favorite New Year’s Day traditions, e.g., Tournament of Roses Parade, Mummers Parade, polar dips, college football games. Ask your group to name an unusual custom for the holiday.
  • Treat your group to a special end-of-the-year meal. Try fondue cooking.
  • Prepare a New Year’s food associated with prosperity and good luck, e.g., the Southern dish of black-eyed peas and ham hocks or collards or the Pennsylvania’s sauerkraut and pork.
  • Share some of Ben Franklin’s wit and wisdom found in Poor Richard’s Almanack. Which advice is timely for the beginning of a new year?
  • Many senior adults grew up with the tradition of listening to Guy Lombardo’s New Year’s Eve Party broadcasts from New York Times Square. The radio broadcasts began in 1929 at the Roosevelt Hotel and continued with TV specials from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue in New York City. Ask your group to share their recollections of Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians playing their version of “Auld Lang Syne.” Talk about the “sweet bands” of the 1930s/1940s and about Lombardo’s slogan, “the sweetest music this side of heaven.”


The New Year is a good time to exercise the mind as well as the body. Many word games stretch the imagination and boost creativity. Ask group members to share their responses to the following fantasies from an exercise titled “Imaginings.”

  1. If you wanted to whistle a happy tune, what would you whistle?
  2. If you could choose a famous author to write your biography, who would you ask?
  3. If you were going to choose a new pet, what kind of animal would you get?
  4. If you went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, what costume would you wear?
  5. If you could teach a subject in high school, which one would you like to teach?
  6. If you could change your first or last name, what would you like to be called?
  7. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
  8. If you could read someone else’s mind, what would you do with the information?
  9. If you could have been born in another country, which one would you like that to be?
  10. If you could throw three coins in that famous fountain in Italy, what would you wish for?


“Write it on you heart that every day is the best day in the year.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“NEW YEAR’S CELEBRATION” written by Sue Hansen. © 2006 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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