Popping the champagne cork at midnight while "Auld Lang Syne" plays is a time-honored tradition to welcome in a new year. But if you are looking to mix it up a bit or include a variety of age groups in the revelry, try one of the ideas below to start 2011 out on a fun and festive foot.
Hats off to 2010
Young or old alike can get in on the fun for this funny hat party.
• Ask all of your guests to come dressed in an unusual, crazy or funny headpiece. From an old family heirloom to something they construct themselves out of odds and ends, everyone will enjoy seeing each new guest as they walk in the door.
• Carry the theme along by buying plastic hats from a local party store and turn them over and use them as bowls for dips and chips.
• If you want an activity to keep the little ones awake, create a craft table where they can make edible treats resembling a party hat. Buy sugar ice-cream cones. Provide plenty of frosting to be spread on the cones as well as candy and sprinkles to stick to their creations. Don't forget some frosting in a tube so they can write their names or put 2011 on their creation.
• At midnight have everyone toss his or her hat (not the candy ones!) in the air to celebrate the coming of 2011 and remember to take lots of fun pictures.
Ringing in the resolution
Even if you don't buy into the whole resolution idea it is inevitably the topic of conversation as everyone gets ready to hang their new calendars and start fresh.
So play on the tradition and have all your guests RSVP with a resolution. They can run the gamut from serious to funny and far out. Use a wipe board or easel to list everyone's resolutions. Guests can spend the evening trying to figure out who said what. Have everyone write down their guesses.
After ringing in the New Year reveal the correct answers. You can even buy a couple fun 2011 calendars as a prize in case you have more than one winner.
It's about time
From the countdown working toward midnight to the passage of time -- the clock is a central focus of New Year's. Why not use it as the theme for this year's party? Incorporate a clock into the invitation to play up the theme. Mix and match the ideas below or choose just one to make sure all your guests have a good "time."
• Ask your guests to come dressed representing their favorite decade. As the hostess, find a 1950s style dress and add an apron and a strand of pearls a la June Cleaver. Enjoy greeting your guests as they offer a blast from the past. Be sure to take lots of photos too.
• Here's an especially fun idea if you tend to celebrate with the same people each year: Ask all your guests to bring something from the past year to put into a time capsule. Whatever makes them think of 2010 -- a newspaper clipping, a family birth announcement or a CD of popular music. Take a picture of your guests and add it into the capsule then store it for safekeeping. Years down the road opening the capsule can be a fun activity at a party in the future.
What in the world?
Although the popular Alan Jackson song says "It's Five O'clock Somewhere," on New Year's play up time zones across the world and change it to "It's Midnight Somewhere."
As the clock strikes midnight in different parts of the world incorporate activities and celebrations native to that area. For example, in Brazil the lentil signifies wealth so lentil soup or lentils and rice can be served. In Greece they celebrate St. Basil's Day and a special dish includes Vassilopitta or St. Basil's cake with a silver or gold coin inside. More details are widely available online. You can even count down across the United States celebrating well into 2011 since several zones follow Chicago.
No matter if it's a resolution or your guests know the goody season is passing, New Years is the perfect time to indulge one last time. Set your party later in the evening and make it all about the decadent desserts. You could ask each guest to bring the last of their holiday cookies, too, so they won't be tempted by them later. For something a little more interactive you can make cupcakes and leave them unfrosted. Set up a table with cans of spray frosting like Pillsbury's Easy Frost and sprinkles and candies in all colors, shapes and flavors and let everyone decorate their own dessert. Serve punch for the little ones complete with sherbet and pair the desserts with some festive wine or seasonal beer.
A bit of the bubbly
Champagne is the drink of choice at most New Year's bashes, but if you are trying to entertain a multigenerational crowd why not make it a bubble party? Soda will be the main theme of this party.
• Set a beverage table with all varieties of soda from diet to regular and fun flavors in between.
• Decorate with bubbles and use clear balloons to continue the theme and look of bubbles. You can even buy or rent a bubble blower for added fun.
• As a party favor give each child a bottle of bubbles tied with a festive ribbon. Adults may like one too. Some party stores have special holiday-related bubbles too.
• Plan an activity geared around soda. You could get a root beer making kit and send each guest home with a bottle of root beer to be enjoyed later. Or, with adult supervision, try one of the experiments with soda found in the book "Fizz Factor" by Steve Spangler.
• Hand out pieces of bubble gum and have a contest to see who can blow the biggest bubble. The winner can go home with a package of Charms Blow Pops.