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New Year's Eve 2020: 8 ideas to safely say goodbye to the worst year ever
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From left to right, Jim Yates, Ariana Jeffery, Olivia Nichols, and Izzy Gewin, jump into the lake during the Polar Bear plunge at Lake Lanier on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

Saying goodbye to 2020 is worth celebrating.

It’s time to stomp out the pains and struggles of the past year and ignite a brighter and hopefully better new year.

As you might’ve guessed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still doesn’t approve of gathering in large numbers for the occasion, nor does it recommend traveling to see loved ones. Also, large public fireworks displays won’t be gracing the skies of Hall County. 

But, that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate safety at home or even outdoors.

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Jason Silay, owner of Xtreme Xplosives Fireworks on Riverside Drive in Gainesville, encourages people to shoot off fireworks in their backyards, or if they live in a crowded neighborhood, opt for sparklers. 

“Fireworks are definitely in the category of socially distanced fun,” Silay said. “I think everybody is ready to blow the doors off 2020.”

Silay said because of numerous canceled fireworks events this year, he has experienced a boost in sales compared to previous years.

“We’re seeing more individual celebrations and family gatherings,” he said. 

For those looking to light up the sky, Silay recommends purchasing a “fireworks show in a box,” also known as multi-shot cakes. Instead of lighting several fuses while outside in the cold, this type of explosive will shoot off numerous fireworks with only one fuse. The multi-shot cakes — including Cooking with Fire and Merlin’s Magic — are typically the rapid-shooting spectacles seen at the finale of a Fourth of July or New Year’s Eve show. 

Silay also gives his seal of approval for Festival Balls, a kit with a reloadable tube and multiple shells that explode into colorful bursts. 

People who live in a crowded neighborhood not suitable for fireworks can still enjoy an illuminated night with sparklers, which are offered at Silay’s shop.

If explosives aren’t your cup of tea, check out these six other festive activities to ring in the new year. 

Neighborhood countdown

You don’t have to pack your home with people to have an energetic countdown to New Year’s Day. Coordinate with residents in your neighborhood and have everyone stand on their lawns or porches at midnight. Raise your voices and count down together while keeping a distance. 

Dessert swap

Who doesn’t enjoy a sweet treat? Instead of visiting friends or family for New Year’s Eve, conduct a dessert swap. Think of it as Secret Santa, but instead you bake a tasty pie or cake and place it on a loved one’s doorstep this New Year’s Eve. 

Polar Bear Swim

Join dozens of Hall County residents as they dash into a likely frigid Lake Lanier for the 23rd annual Polar Bear Swim. The event, which is hosted by the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club, will kick off at noon on New Year’s Day at Lake Lanier Olympic Park beach in Gainesville. People can register for $20 online at

Video chat with friends and family

Talking over video chat may have already become your go-to this year. Yes, we know it’s not the same as seeing your loved ones in person, but it can help you feel connected to family and friends. Call up those you hold dear and count down to the new year together. 

Have a traditional meal

Black-eyed peas, greens and hogjaw are traditional fare for a Southern New Year’s Day celebration. They’re said to bring health and wealth, though which dish brings what is debated. In any case, most of us could use some health and wealth in the new year, so let’s do this up right because whatever we did last year didn’t seem to work.

Memory jar

This may sound cheesy, but consider making your own memory jar to start the new year. Each time an exceptionally happy moment occurs in 2021, write it down on a scrap of paper and place it in the jar. When you’re feeling down in the dumps, pull out a memory from the jar and read it to yourself. If you have patience made of steel, read the contents of the jar at the end of 2021.

Board game night

Host a board game night with the members of your household. If you don’t have a solid game at your place, there are plenty to choose from at local retailers. If you don’t feel enthusiastic about competing against loved ones, try a collaborative game like Arkham Horror, Forbidden Desert, or for something on-brand for 2020, Pandemic.