5 Tips for Celebrating New Year’s Eve When You Have Kids

updated May 1, 2019
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Every year, my friends and I come together to celebrate the new year in the Hudson Valley. There are eight of us in total, and this four-family sleepover is my very favorite event of the year. With delicious food, lots of downtime, and a chance to sit and talk for hours, it’s a perfect way to start each year feeling refreshed.

As kids have entered into the equation — there are now six between us! — things have gotten a bit trickier. But we’ve continued to hold onto this tradition of gathering around the table, telling stories, and eating and drinking good food and wine.

I know this year will be no different. The music may compete with the low hum of white noise coming in through dueling baby monitors, but we’ll be too busy enjoying a gourmet dinner to mind.

Here’s how we pull it off.

1. Feed the kids early.

There is no better night than New Year’s Eve to serve the little ones Annie’s mac and cheese at 5:30 p.m. While they eat, the grown-ups nibble on a simple assortment of store-bought cheese, crackers, and olives. Everyone is happy, there’s plenty of time to get the kids calmed down for an early bedtime, and it sets us up for an adults-only dinner at 8:30 p.m.

Music makes it better: My husband packs his guitar and leads the kids — and the more musically inclined adults — through his favorite classics. (He throws in a few kid favorites, too, although he has yet to agree to learn any songs from Frozen.) The girls twirl and dance, and usually dissolve into hysterics at some point in the session, which basically sums up how much we all love this holiday tradition.

2. Prep the big meal ahead of time.

Cooking with kids underfoot is a challenge, especially when you want the meal to be really good. Our amazing hostess always plans the New Year’s Eve dinner menu with an eye toward dishes that she can prep or make hours before.

Her menu also includes dishes that feel both fancy and exotic as a way to set it apart from all of the Christmas comfort foods. Last year’s menu, which featured these make-ahead spiced lamb meatballs, plus a vegan bastilla (using filo pastry as a shortcut), quinoa tabbouleh, and a simple green salad, was so stunningly good that I’m hoping we can repeat it all this year.

3. Buy dessert.

Pick up a few pints of really good gelato, serve with fresh berries, and call it good. (This combination has the added bonus of pairing really well with Prosecco.)

4. Go big with booze.

And by go big, I mean buy a lot so you can avoid last-minute runs to the wine store. Each family contributes to the stash so we have plenty to last through our stay — with one or two extra bottles to leave as a hostess gift. We also usually have a special mixed drink on New Year’s Eve, and, of course, bubbly.

5. Have a New Year’s Day meal plan.

Over the course of the holiday, each family is responsible for one meal, including menu planning, grocery shopping, and cooking. For New Year’s breakfast, one couple makes “lacy” eggs — or eggs fried until the edges are crisp in olive oil. (These are also called “lazy eggs” to reflect the general morning-after sentiment.)

A great brunch menu for New Year’s:

A Citrus-Inspired Brunch for Any Time of Day

Lunch is usually something simple like snack plates, leftovers, or sandwiches. And my husband and I make homemade pizza for dinner.

How do you plan to bring in the new year this year?