My family never celebrated New Year's Eve.
In fact, as a child of somewhere between the ages of 8 and 10, I overheard my mother talking to my grandparents about how my uncle and his family hosted friends until 3 a.m. the previous New Year's Eve. I was shocked and perhaps even a little disturbed.
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Although the families involved were Christian, family-oriented folks, I couldn't fathom the idea of being awake until 3 a.m., let alone entertaining or being entertained for such a period time.
OK, so I was a little sheltered.
Now that I am the mother of a toddler, I am searching for ways to teach my daughter about holiday traditions in a relevant way.
While she is still too young to stay up until midnight, I contend that it is never too early to start planning. Here are some ideas for ringing in 2012 with your family.
Many of these ideas can easily be adapted to incorporate friends and family members.
- Serve chocolate fondue and savory cheese fondue in shallow bowls with apple slices and strawberries for the chocolate; and bread cubes, broccoli florets, baby carrots and red pepper strips for the cheese.
- Provide ids' "champagne"; Serve sparkling cider or grape juice to the kids at the end of their party, so they can toast like their parents.
- Make popcorn balls, or decorate bell-shaped sugar cookies with colored icing to ring in the new year.
- Read Robert Burns' poem, "Auld Lang Syne" (find a good, English version of the original, colloquial Scottish, which is hard to understand). Talk about what the words mean and why people sing it at the first moment of the New Year.
- Read other stories such as "Miffy's Happy New Year" and "A Happy New Year Day." Or find a story about a child celebrating the Chinese New Year. Hans Christian Anderson's "Little Match Girl" is set on New Year's Eve, but it's kind of a downer story. Another old fairy tale, "The Fairy's New Year Gift" by Emilie Poulsson, has a moral lesson.
- Have each child draw a picture of things they did in 2011, then draw a picture of things they want to do in the new year. Or tell/write an account of their memories of 2011, and articulate what they look forward to in the New Year.
- Before the party, find 2012 calendar pages online and make enough copies for every child. Pre-assemble calendars with blank pages above each month grid. Provide crayons and table space so children can illustrate each month — a winter scene for January, fireworks for July or a jack-o'-lantern for October
- Have a scavenger hunt and have kids search for things around the house or yard that represent seasons of the year or events in 2011.
- Many cultures welcome the new year with loud noises. Offer the kids a diverse collection of things from around the house that make different kinds of noise (pots and pans, pot lids, wooden spoons, bells, drums, tambourines, wooden recorders, bubble wrap or souvenir maracas) and at a designated time, let the kids make as much noise as possible.
- Ask kids to think back over the past year. Have them write or speak (depending on age and maturity) some good things they remember. Then write or speak some bad things they'd like to forget. Ask the kids to write or speak (depending on age and maturity) things they would like to accomplish in the new year. Families could do this together.
- Have families bring a blank, white or pale-colored T-shirt for each child, then write "2012" in black Sharpie marker and give kids permanent markers or acrylic paint to draw a picture of something they want to do in the new year.
— Chris Copley contributed to this story