A solo New Year's Eve presents an unexpectedly wonderful opportunity. Because for one special evening, it's all about you—no matter what anyone says. All. About. You.
I will be celebrating a solitary New Year's Eve myself this year, far from friends and family. Here's my recipe for making it a great one.
1. First and foremost, cook yourself something delicious.
No takeout or packaged meals scrounged from the depths of your freezer! I'll be making my peanut-coconut chicken because it's rich and creamy, faintly spicy, and pretty much irresistible. Also, it will be divine served with some bubbles, because of course I plan to pop a cork.
2. Pour yourself a glass of your favorite drink.
That celebratory popping sound is so emblematic of New Year's Eve that I can't imagine missing it, and personally I'd rather have bubbles early and switch to a good whiskey later. But you can give yourself permission to drink whatever, whenever, because New Year's Eve is like that. Your party, your rules.
3. Pick a playlist.
It should be music that promises a good balance of nostalgia, romance, meditation, and yes, at least one song that always makes you cry. It's possible you personally won't shed a tear, but I know I will want to. Looking back can be hard, with rocky and regrettable patches peppering even the sweetest of years. On New Year's Eve I try to say goodbye to those disappointments, let them go over a glass of good wine and a handkerchief, and then begin to look hopefully ahead. This is serious business and requires a soundtrack.
4. Decide what to wear.
Sparkles? Yoga pants? A fancy dress or bow tie? Penguin pajamas? Motorcycle leathers? Tiger slippers and a football jersey? No one's going to see you, but you are definitely allowed and encouraged to admire yourself in the mirror.
5. Arrange to have nibbles (on top of dinner).
New Year's Eve is a long event, and snacks are needed to make it all the way through. I don't always make it to midnight myself, but when I do, snacks fortify me for the long haul. Oysters, marshmallows, wasabi-flavored potato chips, your favorite dip and dippables, French cheese and pâté, red licorice, chips and salsa, leftover Christmas cookies — or all of the above, whatever you fancy.
6. Dessert is tricky when dining alone.
If you make a fancy dessert, then you'll have to eat the whole thing or finish it later. Unless you truly love eating ice cream right out of the carton, I suggest that you go to the bakery and buy the most beautiful single-portion dessert you can find. Get the one you wouldn't buy just for yourself on any other night of the year. Or if you're like me, get the runniest, most pungent cheese you can find; no one will be there to pretend-gag and make lame jokes about old socks. When it's time, go ahead and eat your chosen treat with your fingers. Lick them thoroughly.
7. Plan to dance.
Nothing says New Year's Eve like a little booty shaking. This is your chance to dance like nobody's watching, because guess what? No one is. Also, this may or may not be the best time to admire yourself in the mirror again, up to you.
8. Whether or not you have the resolution-making gene, plan to spend some time in reflection.
You're on the cusp of something new, and it's the optimal moment for reinvention. I don't always keep the promises I make to myself, so to avoid setting myself up for feeling like a failure, I make no resolutions. What I do instead is visualize the world as I'd like to see it in the new year, and think about my place in that world. I put hope into that vision, and resolve and renewed energy.
I often think about what I'd like to cook in the coming year, and the people I love and the people I might come to love who could share my table. I thrive on cooking for people I care about; one of the saddest things, for me, is to have no one to cook for at all.
But on New Year's Eve, you will be cooking for the most important person in your life: you.
I believe that cooking a meal for yourself on the last day of the year will contribute to your well-being in a major way. The only thing I may advise against is standing in the kitchen and eating your dinner out of the pan. Plate it and sit at a table. Light a candle, pour yourself a glass of bubbles. Make a toast to your one and only life.