In 2013, our family moved to a new naval base the day after Christmas. Homesick for Tennessee AND our home and friends in Maryland, I wanted to do something special for New Year’s Eve. It’s one of my favorite nights of the year, and we needed the distraction from the monotony of unpacking and the uncertainty of landing in a new place. I came to realize quickly that your options are limited when you’ve lived somewhere less than a week and know next to no one, and so began a new tradition. It has been so fun and so relaxed that I truly can’t imagine doing it any other way now.
NYE can be a challenge with little ones, but with a few fun ideas and some minor cheats, it can be a really special night. Here’s how we made it something all five of us look forward to each year:
We play favorites.
No, really — New Year’s Eve is a time for remembering and enjoying all of our favorite things from the past year. We have a playlist consisting of every family member’s favorite songs from the past 12 months, we have a crazy buffet of everyone’s favorite food and desserts, which once led to lumpia, pizza rolls, and a copycat Macaroni Grill Penne Rustica dish on the same table. We play favorite board games, share our top three favorite moments of the year, and even have a short film festival of favorite viral videos. Each kid gets a time slot for the whole family to participate in the activity of their choice. Everyone contributes — everyone’s ideas and wants get weight and an audience. It makes for the most eclectic, interesting night, and I almost always learn something about these people under my roof.
We act like fools.
I found an activity on Pinterest like this one, where you pop a balloon each hour with an activity inside, and that has been a huge hit. If you’re not down with the latex balloons, you could use left over plastic eggs to hunt and open, mystery boxes, whatever your heart desires. Our activities are usually things like dance-offs and lip sync battles, but again, this is all perfectly customizable to the age and energy level of everyone involved. We don’t do this particular one every single year, but it’s a lot of fun and a great way to get started.
We are shady.
We buy those awful glasses that use the year number as the frames. We buy the hats, the confetti poppers, and the party horns (don’t worry, they truly won’t last the night unless your child is some breed I have yet to see). It really does add a layer of festivity, and the kids love to see their dad rock that paper hat. I won’t call grabbing these inexpensive little accessories necessary, but it’s pret-ty close.
We have a strict dress code.
Pajamas. It’s pajamas. Optimal for full-range motions in dance-offs.
We fake it.
Oh yeah, we do. No apologies here: we use the fake countdowns to midnight. Netflix and YouTube both have you covered with all kinds of characters from kid and tween shows, and even a faux Times Square ball drop. I love celebrating with my younger two, but do I love starting the new year’s first morning off with two sleep deprived, belligerent little people who lose it over the placement of a chocolate chip in their waffle? I do not. We pick one or sometimes two countdowns, we cheer, I kiss my babies’ cheeks, even the big one, and we clink our sparkling grape juice-filled glasses. At what time, you ask? Whatever time we spy little eyelids getting heavy.
We get futuristic.
At the end of the night, right before everyone gets tucked in, we talk about the things we hope the next year will bring. It’s so sweet to hear the optimism (or with the teenager, mostly just a sharp wit), and together to end the year not by looking back, but by looking forward.