Hate the New Year’s Madness? This Year, Celebrate at Home


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For most of us, New Year's Eve isn't really the wild party night you'd think. Here's a plan for holding a low-key, family friendly celebration that won't leave you nursing a headache in the morning.

New Year’s Eve has an image problem: Its reputation as a wild party night.

“What’s wrong with me?” you may ask yourself as you snuggle into pajamas and settle down in front of the tube for one more New Year’s Eve at home.

Here’s what’s wrong with you: Nothing. You’re in the majority. Despite the hype, most Americans celebrate the new year by staying home. Only a quarter — and just 37 percent of people under 30 — planned to attend a New Year’s party, according to an Economist/YouGov poll.

If you want to go out but want to include the kids, search the Internet for your city’s name and “family friendly New Year’s Eve.” Many cities host G-rated community celebrations.

Otherwise, home is where most of our hearts (and wallets) are on New Year’s Eve. Here’s how to have a bang-up time and wake up the next morning with a clear head:

1. Invite others — or don’t

Should you invite friends or keep it in the family? Either way can be good:

Pros: It’s fun to have a little company on New Year’s Eve. If you do feel like inviting others, consider limiting the party hours. For example, invite another family to come between 7 and 9 p.m. for games, popcorn and punch. Or, if you’re feeling really ambitious, host a slumber party for children of parents who’ll be out partying. You’ll earn credits for a night out of your own later. Since sleepovers tend to keep kids up late anyway, see if you can get the little monsters to agree that if they stay up until midnight they’ll go to sleep right afterward.

Cons: There’s a lot to be said for keeping the party small. You can climb in your pajamas early and feel totally relaxed. You don’t have to clean the house, make fancy food or make an effort to keep scintillating conversation going.

2. Make decorating cheap and easy

Make a run to a dollar store or crafts emporium for party supplies. Set a budget: $25-$50 should do it. Bring home an armload of party poppers, confetti, napkins, plates, drink cups, Mardi Gras beads, noisemakers, silly hats and glow-in-the-dark party favors. (More party ideas: “10 Tips for Throwing a Great New Year’s Eve Party.”)

Or keep the party homey and sweet by setting the decorating budget at zero and putting the kids to work on the decorations.

3. Serve imaginative alcohol-free party drinks

You’ll wow everyone (especially the kids) and keep your guests safe on the road by serving super-festive alcohol-free drinks:

  • Break out bottles of sparking cider and serve it in cocktail glasses purchased from a thrift store.
  • Try the fun drink hacks described in “Fun and Festive Drink Hacks to Make Your Party Memorable.” (Except for White Russians, any of these ideas can be made alcohol-free).
  • Make a big bowl of alcohol-free punch. Cooks.com recommends this recipe for a colorful drink made extra-special with floating sherbet:

2 liter bottles of Sprite soda
2 cans of lemonade concentrate, undiluted
1 large can pineapple juice
1 quart to 1/2 gallon lemon-lime sherbet
Frozen strawberries or maraschino cherries for color

Chill all ingredients and pour into large punch bowl. Scoop sherbet and float on top of beverage. Add 1 package of frozen strawberries or 1 small jar of maraschino cherries, drained for color and added flavor if desired.

4. Keep the food easy and plentiful

Make lots of food and make it easy. Martha Stewart has recipes and ideas, including a plan for a baked-potato bar: Bake big spuds and serve them with a buffet of toppings like shredded cheese, sour cream, butter, chili, salsa, crumbled bacon, steamed frozen broccoli, sautéed mushrooms and more.

Put out bowls of snacks like party mix, trail mix, chips and salsa, dips, veggie platters and fruit plates so people can help themselves throughout the evening.

5. Entertainment: Pump up the silliness

  • Limbo line competition: Laugh all you want, but this simple retro dance craze is guaranteed to break the ice. (Any dance music will do but for authenticity, download Chubby Checker’s 1962 hit “Limbo Rock.”) Here’s how to limbo.
  • Host a talent show: There are two ways to go with a talent show. You can invite everyone, adults included, to come ready to perform a brief talent act. Or have the kids put on their own talent show. If you hand the reins over to the kids, stress the need to plan and rehearse each act, which can include singing, instrumental performance, silly pet stunts, magic tricks and more. Name, or have the kids select a master of ceremonies to announce each act; they can even make a program listing. It’s a process that can keep them engaged for hours.
  • Karaoke: Borrow a karaoke setup if possible. Otherwise, you should be able to rent equipment for much less than $100 (but hurry so you find it available). Include a selection of music that spans the eras so everyone has something they can try to sing.
  • Game night: Set up a few card tables with board games, decks of cards and enough chairs that everyone can play and put your Wii, if you have one, in one corner. Have a strategy for video games. You may want to ban them or make them available only late in the evening as they tend to isolate a few players to the exclusion of others. Or plan for games that the entire group, including adults and kids, can play. Classic favorites include a scavenger hunt, two truths and a lie, Bunco and charades. Here are plenty more great ideas: “11 Fun Family Activities for the Holidays (and One for Adults Only).”

Do you have ideas for ringing in the new year in the comfort of your home? Share your thoughts in comments or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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