Ringing in 2014 doesn’t have to involve a crush of people and champagne poppers at midnight. Now that I have kids, I’m more focused on creating a cozy at-home celebration that everyone can enjoy, regardless of age. If you want to stay in but stay festive this New Year’s Eve, here are a few fun ideas.
Stage a Grilled Cheese Bar
Provide pre-sliced bread, a variety of cheeses, and extra toppings like caramelized onions or apple butter, and let your guests go to town cooking up their ideal sandwich.
Host a Small Bites PartyHave guests bring their favorite small bites while you provide a variety of drinks. Check out a dozen of our favorite holiday nibbles.
Plan a Neighborhood Progressive
Connect with neighbors and map out a menu where you’ll walk from house to house and enjoy a different course at each home. Don’t forget to take flashlights! Make the walk even more fun and bust out your favorite holiday sing-along songs.
Make it a Game Night
Put down the screens and bring back board games! Invite families, and ask everyone to bring their favorite board game. Enlist your kids’ help in planning dinner and snacks that everyone will enjoy, and have prizes for the game winners.
Throw a “My Best Recipe” Potluck Dinner
Invite your foodie friends and ask them to prepare their best recipe! Have everyone bring the recipe on a card to share with the group. The host provides the main course. Non-cooks provide drinks. Vote on the best recipe at the end of the evening.
Set up a DIY Drinks Bar
Stock up on sparkling wine (stop by the wine department and ask for a recommendation), sparkling cider and sparkling water too. Set out colorful juices — think pomegranate, pink grapefruit and blood orange. Cut slices of citrus and set out a bowl of sugar for coating the rims of glasses (rub a citrus slice around the rim, then dip it into the sugar and twist coat). Cover the table with brown paper for guests to write down their favorite combinations. Or, just make a pitcher of Apple Pomegranate Fizz and call it done!
Host a Cookbook-themed Dinner PartyDid you receive a new cookbook as a gift this year and can’t wait to dive in and start cooking from it? Plan a dinner party based on recipes from the book and invite friends over to enjoy them with you.
Go for an International Experience
Ask friends of varying backgrounds how they ring in the New Year. You might find yourself eating twelve grapes at midnight, wearing red or yellow underwear or walking out your front door with a suitcase as the clock strikes twelve. You’ll not only learn the meaning behind the ways we celebrate the transition to a new year — maybe you’ll start some new traditions of your own!
Organize a “Best of 2013” Dinner Party
Think back on food trends and your cooking over the past year. What were some of your new favorite recipes, ingredients and cooking techniques? Did you come up with your own “cronut” knockoff? Collaborate with friends and cooking partners on putting together a dinner menu that incorporates the best of the year.
Have Brunch Instead
If staying up until midnight isn’t your cup of tea, make a breakfast casserole or prepare Baked Cranberry-Walnut French Toast the night before, then head to bed at a reasonable hour and get a good night’s sleep. In the morning throw together a fruit salad, make a batch of muffins and raise your coffee cup to toast the New Year.
How are you welcoming 2014?