When I was a kid, New Year’s Eve was a fun excuse to stay up until midnight. After I had my own children, New Year’s Eve reminded me of those sleepless nights I faced with new babies. Not wanting to spoil the fun for my children, we stayed up until midnight, finding various ways to pass the time. Usually I fell asleep for a couple of hours along the way and shooed the kids to bed at 12:01. I learned that unstructured time put me to sleep and the kids often spent their time quarreling.
A few years ago I got my children involved and added a little and it finally became a celebration we all look forward to and it is more than a night to stay up late. My teenagers would even prefer to hang out with the family over going to a dance because of our fun activities (and yummy snacks).
So what makes our night so special? First, there’s the food. Everyone chooses a snack for the evening; we have a strange mix, but it works out since they are spread through the evening. The second element that makes the night work is a schedule. I know it sounds a little controlling, but it helps keep any activity from getting boring and reduces complaints since we change activities every half hour. I keep a good mix of eating, restful activities and active games (the movement helps keep me awake).
Here’s a few of our favorite parts of our celebration.
Candles – At 6pm we light a candle for each hour left in the year. Every hour, we blow one out until midnight.
Predictions – We have four silly questions for everyone to record their predictions. Questions have included, “How much money will you have in your wallet next New Year’s Eve?” or “How many Christmas cards will we receive next year?” Sometimes there are questions about current events, such as, “Who will be the next president?” before an election year.
Top Ten Lists – We each remember our Top Ten favorite events of the year and we also look forward to the Top Ten things we hope for in the coming year. The differences in everyone’s lists can be surprising.
Burn Bad Habits – Just before midnight, everyone writes down a bad habit they would like to break in the New Year. We gather around the last lit candle, read our paper and drop it into the flame. This is a very dramatic way of breaking bad habits. Obviously, use extreme caution with children and flames!
These are just some of our favorites, I’m still picking and choosing through the rest of my ideas to see which ones will make the cut this year’s celebration. The best part of the evening is spending time together; the second best is making meaningful memories.
What’s on your New Year’s Eve schedule?