January’s Secret: It’s the Best Month


Consider the plight of January, the sad sack of months.

It lacks for sunlight. It has some of the worst weather in the Northern Hemisphere — a dreary cold that happens to stretch on for 31 days.

It’s a month without social holidays. Even lowly February, its companion in the winter doldrums, has Valentine’s Day. January suffered another blow in 2022, when its one day of excitement, Super Bowl Sunday, moved permanently to the year’s second month.

Hollywood isn’t much help. Rather than providing distractions in these bleak days, the entertainment industry has made January a dumping ground for films that have no shot at winning awards or making year-end critics’ lists.

But the very things that make January a bit of a bore have endeared it to its fans. And while many people loathe the month because it means a restart of the daily grind, Robert Mac, a stand-up comedian, welcomes the return of steady work.

“I dislike breaking up my routine in the second half of December,” said Mr. Mac, 55, who lives in suburban Washington and, like many comics, travels extensively. “I can’t get anything done.”

Others like the month’s lack of social obligations and sense of calm.

“January is quickly becoming my favorite month of the year,” Chelsea Delman, a real estate agent in Providence, R.I., said in a video the she recently posted on her TikTok account, the Socialite Files. “I don’t have to go to any parties. I don’t have to go to any holidays. I don’t have to do anything. I can just chill.”

Speaking by phone, Ms. Delman, 35, sounded relieved to have made it through an overbooked December.

“I have three family birthdays in the week of Christmas,” she said. “And my father’s birthday and my best friend’s birthday are both on the 26th. By the time January comes around, I feel like I can breathe again. I feel like I’ve gone to the spa in January.”

That sense of having nowhere to go and nothing to do is one of the month’s defining features. After December’s rush of Amazon eighteen-wheelers and minivans headed to Grandmother’s house, highway traffic falls sharply in January, and the year ahead, just days old, has the clarity of the open road.

Along with its little sibling, February, January belongs to the year’s slowest period for tourism in many cities, including New York. Tiffany Townsend, a spokeswoman for New York City Tourism + Conventions, said the sparse crowds make the city more navigable.

“For travelers, and even for New Yorkers, if there’s something you want to do, waiting till January is a good move,” Ms. Townsend said. “The line is a little shorter. Maybe you get that restaurant reservation that you couldn’t get in December.”

Jenn Saesue, an owner of Fish Cheeks and Bangkok Supper Club, which recently received two stars in The New York Times, said that reservations are indeed easier to come by these days. Business at her restaurants is down 15 to 20 percent month, she said, a marked contrast with what she described as the “pure craziness” of December.

Though she would prefer full tables, Ms. Saesue added that January allows her “to just relax a little bit and set myself up for the year.” She also encourages her staff to take vacations during these less-than-harried weeks.

“It’s a good time to take a little bit of a breather,” she said.

January makes up for the cold and gray with clearance sales, discount theater tickets and other cut-rate promotions — the thrifty person’s dream month. Airline traffic slackens, which means cheap flights.

“People are spent after the holidays,” said Brian Kelly, who runs the travel website The Points Guy. “The entire industry takes a breather in January. And there are great deals.”

While fares to Caribbean islands and ski resorts ping upward, the cost of airline tickets to other destinations plummets. A quick survey by Mr. Kelly showed $467 as the price of a coach ticket from New York to London; the cost for that same flight in June was $745. Mr. Kelly, a frequent January flier, added that he was off to Finland this week, flying business class to Helsinki on his way to Lapland to see the northern lights.

Ms. Saesue’s industry is on the front lines of a recent seasonal innovation: Dry January. Her restaurants, like many others, now offer teas, mocktails and other nonalcoholic beverages. It’s part of a trend in which the wellness and self-help industries have used the age-old idea of New Year’s resolutions to turn January into a time of new gym memberships and cayenne pepper and lemon juice cleanses.

Ms. Delman, the January fan in Providence, said she had no intention of ruining the year’s most uneventful month with onerous self-improvement tasks.

“I’m not going to torment myself with a 10-day cleanse or showing up to the gym for a week,” she said. “I just live my life.”

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