Friday, December 31, 1999

Some simple, last-minute ideas

Enquirer contributor

        Only 21 percent of Americans plan to travel away from home to celebrate tonight's big event, according to a Yankelovich poll for Time magazine and CNN. If you're included in the 79 percent who intend to stay home with the family, but don't have definite plans, keep reading.

        Here are suggestions for making the evening a bit more memorable than sitting in front of the television. Incorporate some of them into your plans, or use them as a jumping-off point for ideas of your own.

Candlelit dinner
        Will it be just you and the kids together? In their book Homespun Fun (St. Martin's Griffin), Mother Connection Inc. recommends a family dinner by candlelight.

        Or, if you have a fireplace, it is fun to make a fire and set the table in front of it. “The kids feel like they are having dinner at a special restaurant.”

        Make the evening not only fun, but productive as well, by taking down the tree. What is usually hard work can be a party instead. Sing Christmas carols, but change the words so they're more appropriate for New Year's. Sick of Christmas by now? Sing Easter songs instead. Or make it a progressive party. Go from one friend's house to the next, taking down the tree at each.

        Or try this family activity: Clear off the table, and pull out the boxes of photographs you've been meaning to put in photo albums. Arrange them chronologically, or separate by event. Everyone helps. On the back, write the names and ages of each person. Jot down a favorite memory to accompany vacation photos. Even if you don't get the photos into albums by the end of the evening, you will have made a big step in the right direction.

        Or spend the evening watching family movies. This can keep everyone glued to the screen all night long, unless, of course, it's someone else's family you're watching.

Invite company
        Elizabeth Berg, author of Family Traditions (Readers Digest), recommends this New Year's tradition: “Have everyone make five predictions about each person at the party. Store these in a safe place. Next New Year's read them together to see how well you did.” Then make new predictions for the following year.

        Want to make your family party really different? Tell everyone to wear pajamas and bring a sleeping bag. Adults too. At midnight, pop balloons filled with confetti. Or, Berg suggests, have everyone stand on chairs just before midnight. “On the stroke of twelve everyone leaps into the New Year.”

        Board games are a traditional favorite at many New Year's Eve get-togethers. The Morris family of Pleasant Ridge has been gathering with the same group of friends for 25 years.

        “We have massive Trivial Pursuit matches, and have added the kids as they've gotten older. Usually it's boys against the girls,” says Mimi Morris. Now ages 18 and 21, the kids still enjoy the festivities at home “at least for part of the evening!”

        In Chillicothe, the Folzenlogen family will again host a party that's ideal for families with little ones. As Sarah explains, “We start at 6 p.m. and everyone brings an appetizer or dessert. At 10 p.m., we tell the kids it's midnight. We count down-the whole nine yards. Everyone is home in bed by midnight and the kids aren't miserable the next day.”

        But parties like these are only for families with young children, she advises. “Friends without kids would think you are a loser for spending the evening this way!”

        Another idea is to host a game party. Pull out all your favorite board games. Players rotate from table to table in order to play all games. Score three points for winning a game, one point for second place. The person with the most points at the end of the evening wins 2000 pennies, or another appropriate gift.

Venturing out
        Prefer to get out of the house for the evening?

        Take your young ones to Woodland Mound Park's Seasongood Nature Center. Their New Year's Party is free and open to the public from 6-9 p.m. Events include storytelling, live animal program, snacks and crafts. At 9 p.m., the clock is advanced three hours. Watch the sparkling ball drop from the ceiling while sipping sparkling juice.

        It's a Happy Zoo Year at the Cincinnati Zoo. Join these party animals for festivities that begin at 5 p.m. Along with the annual Festival of Lights display, enjoy camel and wagon rides, train rides, ice skating, Baby New Year, Father Time, and a special New Year's show in the PNC Bank Holiday Theater. Countdown to the New Year at 9 p.m. with fireworks and a light show. Entrance fee at the gate.


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