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The Dangers of Drinking During the Holidays

The holidays are quickly approaching, and along with the joy and festivity that fills the air, something else seems to spike during this time period: drinking. Whether it’s out of celebration or to cope with the in-laws overstaying their welcome, data shows both drinking and alcohol-related incidences rise over the holidays. This micrographic illuminates the dangers of holiday drinking, including the drastic increase in traffic deaths. Read on to learn more about the impact of holiday drinking and discover fun and festive nonalcoholic alternatives to popular holiday drinks.  Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

When Seasonal Festivities Turn Deadly

Why is drinking so intertwined with holiday celebrations? Whether it’s a beer at a summer barbecue or eggnog spiked with rum under the mistletoe, many view holiday drinking as a normal pleasure, a way to accentuate enjoyment of the season. Unfortunately, an attachment to seasonal partying is not so innocent. Alcohol is the primary cause of traffic fatalities throughout the year, but the incidence of alcohol-related fatalities increases during holidays. New Year’s Eve hosted the most alcohol-related automobile deaths in 2015, while Thanksgiving saw the greatest number of traffic fatalities overall. Although there were fewer deadly crashes on Christmas, 41 percent of them involved alcohol, the same percentage as Thanksgiving. This means the week of Christmas through New Year’s Day contains possibly the most dangerous days to drink of the whole year. Celebration is not the only motive for drinking during the holidays. Many people experience increased levels of stress in the weeks leading up to the holidays, particularly during the winter season. There’s pressure to spend more money than most people can comfortably afford, attend every party and activity, and seem joyful while doing it all. It’s natural to seek out a glass of wine or cocktail to ease social anxiety and feel more relaxed. However, alcohol is only a temporary balm and it can actually accentuate negative feelings instead of curing them. Many people feel worse once the buzz wears off.

Nonalcoholic Alternatives to Make the Season Merry and Bright

Care for yourself and your loved ones this season by substituting some or all of the alcoholic beverages you’d normally drink with these festive alternatives.

  • Mulled Cider: Mulled wine is a popular drink in cold weather, but its cider equivalent is just as delicious and doesn’t come with a hangover. Simply heat apple juice on the stove and add spices like cinnamon, cloves and allspice. It’s possible to find packets of mulling spices at the grocery store, too. Add fresh orange and lemon peels if you want to make it fancy.
  • Homemade Eggnog: Children know how to enjoy eggnog best – in its virgin state. The child in you will gulp down this throwback favorite without even noticing the lack of alcohol. Of course you can buy eggnog at the store, but making it at home is surprisingly easy and adds a special touch. Many of the same spices you’d use to make mulled cider can be reused in eggnog. Beyond that you just need condensed milk, egg yolks, heavy cream and sugar.
  • Fruity Sparklers: Skip the usual champagne toast on New Year’s Eve and delight your friends with a new twist on bubbly. Start with seltzer or sparkling water, than add your favorite fruit purees and juices. Try one flavor or a combination and decorate the glass with a mint leaf, orange slice or cherry.
  • Hot Chocolate: Like eggnog, you can buy hot chocolate everywhere, but if you take the time to make it at home you’ll end up with a richer and more satisfying beverage. Use whole milk instead of water with a store bought mix, or use a base of real melted chocolate. For variations on the original, add peppermint, white chocolate or even a fruit flavor.

Be Safe and Have Fun

Safety doesn’t have to be boring. Take the time to decide for yourself what the holidays mean to you and how you’d like to celebrate. That often means saying no to invitations more frequently than you say yes. Keep your stress levels low and you won’t feel the need to numb the seasonal frenzy with alcohol. Talk to your friends and family about safe drinking and driving during the holidays. It’s easier to stay on track with healthy goals when you can surround yourself with like-minded people. The whole world isn’t going crazy for holiday decorations, shopping and parties, despite what your social media feeds suggest. While it can encourage peer pressure, the Internet is also a great way to connect with others striving to enjoy a deliberate, mindful and healthy holiday season. Raise a glass to safe celebrating and make sure traffic fatalities aren’t part of your holidays this year.

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