Starting a new year with traditions and resolutions

New Year’s Day is my favorite day of the year. Not only is Jan. 1 my birthday, it’s also the day on which everyone gets to start with a clean slate. The day of the New Year’s resolution is a fitting birthday for me, because I always have been a list maker, a goal setter and a planner.

But last year I started a new tradition with my friend Cassidy that actually starts the night before – running the First Night State College 5K Resolution Run. In an article I wrote for the Sun-Gazette Thanksgiving section this year, I explored some of the reasons people love holiday-themed races. Running a race on New Year’s Eve gives me a head start on making my health a priority in the year to come – and it seems to work.

Last year I ran the race for the first time, and one of my goals for 2013 was to run a half-marathon. In October I met that goal by completing the Hershey Half-Marathon. Sure, chances are good that I still would have found the motivation to run this race once the year got started … but it was nice to have a little boost from the beginning.

Of course, it’s not all about the health benefits. This year Cassidy and I will celebrate another “tradition” we started last year: following our race with a trip to Mad Mex (240 S. Pugh St., State College) for loaded nachos and a birthday margarita.

Bonding with a friend and sharing an activity we both love – running – is another reason I look forward to this race.

State College’s First Night activities offer a plethora of ways to cement and celebrate New Year’s resolutions in addition to the 5K. One of my favorites is the “Burning Man,” a wood and fabric sculpture. Visitors are encouraged to write down a wish, regret or resolution they didn’t keep from the prior year and pin it to the sculpture. The “Burning Man” is ignited at 11:15 p.m. in Central Parklet to help everyone say goodbye to the prior year and get a fresh start.

Other fun traditions include spinning the “Wheels of Fate,” which will choose a New Year’s resolution for you, and creating a “Resolution Mug” at 2000 Degrees (202 W. College Ave.) Visitors are encouraged to decorate ceramic mugs in a way that symbolizes their resolution and serves a reminder. Mugs can be picked up once they have been fired and dried.

I love making the start of a new year a mixture of traditions and resolutions. It can be argued that New Year’s Day is just another day and that goals and resolutions can be set at any time, and this is true. But I love the symbolism of starting over. I can’t wait to celebrate my new-year traditions again in 2014 and kick off the year in the best way possible.

Alexander is the Entertainment editor at the Sun-Gazette. She can be reached at