Nothing gets you excited for a new year of adventure, challenges, and triumphs quite like a New Year’s cocktail party with all your closest friends, right?! This year, you’ve decided to take the role of host with the most in your own abode. Hosting a party can be stressful but certainly doesn’t have to be! Keep it simple this year while providing an experience for your guests they’ll remember for years to come. Consider hosting a “New Years around the World” party with food, libations, and details that will take your guests intrigued! Here are some tips on how to throw a great party while keeping it simple.
1. Stage Your Home. Encourage mingling by offering seating for only about 1/3 of guests. Flow is an important element to staging your home for a party as it dictates how your guests will use the room. To make the most of your space, begin by placing the beverage table opposite from the room’s entrance to avoid crowding during entries and exits. Be sure all sides to the table are accessible and set all bottles in the center, with glasses, garnishes, and napkins on both sides. Use a pretty basket or decorative waste basket near the drink table. Designate two spots, on either sides of the room and close to the available seating, for guests to put used plates, glasses, and napkins. Top a couple of side tables with trays to show your guests what the tables are for. Place the buffet far from the bar to encourage flow throughout the room. Use the buffet for main dishes and the coffee table for bowls of nuts and and candies.
2. Set the Mood. Depending on the energy-level of your party, plan your music and decor accordingly. If it’s a swanky, semi-formal event, keep the lights dim with plenty of candlelight. Set your iPod playlist or Pandora player to your favorite Jazz or instrumental station and keep the music audible but soft. You never want your music to compete with your guests’ conversations! If you’re looking for a livelier, more laid-back environment, fill the space with metallic balloons, confetti, and streamers, ensuring people know that they’re there to party! That said, instrumental music would probably put your guests to sleep, so instead load up your stereo with your favorite dance playlist of 2012. Keep in mind your guests are there to mingle, catch up, and make new connections with people so don’t obsess about how your home looks. They’re there for you, not the decor!
3. Libations. Keep it simple by offering one red and white wine option (Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are great options), an ale and lager available in bottles (no cans, please!), and a signature cocktail or punch made with liquor. One of my favorite holiday punches, Pomegranate-Champagne Punch, comes from Martha Stewart and can be found here. Be sure to have a small bowl of wine glass charms so people know which one is theirs! This will also cut down on the amount of glasses and beverages needed since you won’t have people “losing” their glass after placing it on a table or bar top.
4. Worldly Traditions for Good Luck! As you ring in the new year, take your guests for a trip around the world by sharing different countries’ traditions for good fortune. You can create a menu based on the traditions of the world. TIP: Instead of making signs with explanations, you an create a cocktail napkin for each item that explains the meaning behind each food; creativity meets functionality! Here in the south it is believed that Black-eyed Peas symbolize humility and thus invite good fortune! How does the rest of the world celebrate?
- Spain: Eat 12 grapes (served on a skewer, preferably in a glass of champagne) at midnight. They are said to be a predictor of the year ahead: each sweet grape represents a good month, each sour, a less-than-lucky one.
- Italy: Lentils are served because an abundance of the tiny edible seeds symbolizes wealth.
- Japan: Soba, or buckwheat noodles, are eaten at midnight and are called Toshi-Koshi Soba (“from one year to another”).
- Sweden and Norway: Rice pudding with an almond hidden inside. Whoever finds the almond is promised prosperity in the new year.
- Cuba and Austria: Roast Suckling Pig is eaten because the animal symbolizes advancement into the future.
- Denmark: Throw dishes and jump off chairs at the stroke of midnight (you may want to skip this particular tradition at your party). Leaping is said to banish bad luck and to bring good fortune into the new year. Throwing plates at neighbors’ doors symbolizes their friendship. The person with the most broken plates is said to have the most friends!
- Germany: Fish is a symbol of good fortune and prosperity.
- Greece: Coins baked into a sweet bread called “vasilopita.” The one to find the coin is promised good luck!
- Scotland: A whiskey toast at midnight while singing “Auld Lang Syne,” written by Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns is the traditional way of welcoming the new year. After midnight, neighbors go “first footing,” exchanging food and drink door-to-door. Superstition states that if the first visitor to cross your threshold is a tall, dark, and handsome man, the year will be a prosperous one.
- Worldwide: Anything green (to symbolize money and prosperity), coin-shaped, or ring-shaped (thought to bring good luck, possibly because they symbolize “coming full circle”).
Regardless of where you’re celebrating NYE, be sure to raise a glass and toast to a fresh, new year!
Fun Fact: The word “toast” in this context came along in the 17th century when pieces of spiced, toasted bread were placed in drinks, perhaps to enhance their flavor.
5. Hire Extra Help. No matter what the occasion, a missing hostess is never a good thing. Be sure you can enjoy your party, once guests arrive. Even if you’ve planned every little detail, it’s never a bad idea to have someone else tend to your guests’ needs, maintain beverages, refill glassware and garnishes, pick up trash and empty glassware, so you have the time to visit with every guest. After all, it wouldn’t be a party without your guests!
To a Bright and Joyous 2013! Cheers!