New Year’s Eve 2021 is going to require people who previously went out and partied all night to consider staying home due to COVID restrictions and guidelines. For the most part, I have always chosen to stay home on New Year’s Eve, and I can enthusiastically say: it doesn’t have to be boring, nor break the bank, to bring the party home and share the evening with family instead of going out.

My column this week is about how our family celebrates New Year’s Eve at home. This is an easy topic for me to write about because I am a self-proclaimed expert on staying home and finding creative, thrifty ways to make special family memories without going anywhere. So, let’s prepare to say “Bye, Felicia!” to 2020 from home this year with the family!

Here are my tips:

*Make your home feel festive!

Use what you have to decorate your space and make it feel like a party. Get the family excited, and have the children help decorate. Pinterest has a ton of ideas for thrifty New Year’s Eve fun for families with kids of all ages, so be sure to check it out!

Pull out those old birthday streamers and horns. Who cares what color they are? It’s 2020, it’s been a tough year, and I have declared: there are no rules.

Spray paint tree branches white, put them in vases, and, if you have kids, have them make little paper snowflakes to hang off the branches as a table centerpiece.

Pull out the “good” china (if you have it) and use it! Set the table festively and make place cards with family members’ names on them out of index cards or cardboard for each family member. Fold the cards in half, so they stand up, like little tents. Then, pass the place cards around and have each family member write a word that describes that person and makes them special on their place card. Share what has been written on each, then share a meal.

* One of my greatest joys is to beat the system and be able to decorate and celebrate holidays with my family without breaking the bank. It gives me a rush like no other! So, we are frugally festive on New Year’s Eve (and on any other holiday).

 Food can be simple and inexpensive. Think fun. Have something you don’t normally have. We like to get Chinese takeout because it is a treat we reserve only for special occasions. Don’t go crazy cooking (unless it makes you happy)! I cook and bake for my family all the time. I’m all about NOT cooking or baking on New Year’s Eve because Christmas zaps all my culinary powers for a few days. This chef needs a break once in a while, and not being stuck in the kitchen allows me more time to enjoy my family on New Year’s Eve.

*Focus on creative presentation of whatever you choose to eat.

Pinterest is your friend if you were at the end of the line when God was handing out creativity. This New Year’s Eve, Bella, one of our college-age daughters, is making a charcuterie board for appetizers (with cheese, meat, and nuts from Aldi, my favorite grocery store). Charcuterie is trending in the world of entertaining, and it might be fun to create a board with your family (again, Pinterest has all the ideas you need). I saw the numbers 2021 made out of cheese and salami on a board on Pinterest-super cute and easy!

Leftover Christmas sweets and yummy, fresh bakery goods at the grocery store-bought on clearance after Christmas will comprise our dessert tray. We bought some blue and white frosted cupcakes from Food Giant for 50 percent off today, and some holiday cookies discounted 30 percent from Target. Shop the after-Christmas sales in the Christmas sections of the stores!

We will arrange our food on my mother-in-love’s vintage silver trays and some Mississippi pottery platters she gave me to make it all look fancy and celebrate that this is our first New Year’s Eve in Mississippi. The diet can start January 2!

*New Year’s Eve is a time of reflection.

I set up balloons like a clock face and tape them to a wall. Every hour, one of the kids pops a balloon, and there’s a note in there with something to reflect on. What was your most memorable event this year? What was a challenge you had this year, and how did you overcome it? Name one new friend you made this year and why that person is special. What is something you tried this year for the first time? What did you learn about yourself this year? Questions will need modification, depending on the age of the children, if you have them.

Our children are all adults now, except for my sixteen-year-old son, so we gear questions toward what season of their lives they are in. It’s a great way to get families talking and sharing! With so much technology distraction, it’s nice to get away from screen time and enjoy family conversation. At any age, families spell love “T-I-M-E.”

*The balloon clock activity can also be mixed up to include a little goodie bag for small children each hour, or, as my children got older, we substituted the goodie bag with a fun game or fun activity as a family each hour. One hour, it might be a board game, another hour, it might be spa pedicures. Keep it interesting!

*Black box bonfire:

Every year has its disappointments, sadness, and sorrows. 2020 has been very challenging for many people. Children need to know that it’s okay to have these feelings and express them.

Have everyone write all their worst memories of 2020 on a sheet of paper, and put the papers in a little box. Wrap the box in black construction paper, and, as a family, ceremoniously say goodbye to all those bad memories by throwing the box into a fire in the fireplace, or in a bonfire.

S’mores afterward would put a positive spin on this!

*Memory jar for 2021

Now that we’ve ditched all the bad for 2020, set up a memory jar for 2021. This year, we are using an antique glass Mason jar we found here on the property. Use whatever you have! We place the memory jar on the windowsill in the kitchen. Keep a little pad of paper and a pencil nearby. Each time something good happens throughout the year, we write it on a little piece of paper and put it in the jar. We share what was put in the jar on New Year’s Eve as a positive recap of the year’s highlights.

Then, I save all the little pieces of paper in a labeled envelope in our Family Trunk.

*Word of the year

I ditched New Year’s Resolutions a long time ago, after many failed resolutions. For the past several years, I have focused on my “word of the year,” which will carry forth what I wish to focus on or have more of in the year ahead.

In past years, I have chosen words like “yes” (to say yes to things that I normally would not do because they might require me to be brave). That year, I said “yes” to competing in pageants for the first time in my life, at age 47, all because I was asked to compete. I ended up winning a national title that year!

You can do this activity as a family. Ask what is it that you need or want more of? Have each family member paint the word on a little canvas and hang it in their rooms or in a prominent place in your home. You can get cheap stencils and canvases for $1 each at Dollar Tree! Have each person share their word of the year. Sharing works well to get support from family members as accountability partners as the year progresses.

I haven’t selected my word for 2021 yet (there’s still a little time left for me to ponder what feels right. I’ll be sure to let you know when I do.

So, to recap my New Year’s Eve at home suggestions:

Keep it simple.

Make it fun for your family with activities to encourage interaction and putting down the phones.

Use what you have and/or shop the after Christmas sales.

Make a festive environment, involve the kids (if you have them), and spend time making memories together at home.

Since New Year’s Eve guidelines this year suggest not going out, why not look within, reflect on the year that has past, and choose your word for 2021.

Next week, I’ll share my word of the year and share about another New Year’s tradition: making vision boards. You can see my New Year’s Eve setup on my Little Mrs. FGG social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube. Feel free to reach out and share your word of the year and what you did to celebrate New Year’s Eve at home!

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