New Year’s Eve celebrations are usually known as the best party of the year, but 2021 is a year that cannot come fast enough. This New Year’s Eve may rank as the most anticipated ever! Celebrate it right with a fun at-home family New Year’s Eve party.
Nothing about 2020 has been usual by any means. Birthday and graduation parties have been relegated to drive-by-and-honk parades, and the local bartender is the person looking back at you in the mirror. For 2020, what makes more sense than to stay home with your family on New Year’s Eve?
All you need to create a fun at-home family New Year’s Eve party is some imagination and a little bit of effort, especially if young ones are involved.
My advice is to give each family member a voice in planning the festivities. We asked each person to add an element to our celebration, whether it be food, music, or entertainment. Here’s what my family came up with to celebrate the big night, hour by hour.
To plan our dinner, each of us looked up different “good luck” foods and added a New Mexican twist. Also, have everyone explain why the food is good luck.
Our first choice was based on the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes or raisins at midnight, one for each chime of the clock. This brings good fortune for all 12 months of the year. As long as you finish all 12 before the final stroke, of course. As a nod to that belief, we made a platter of fruit, cheese, and Arnold Bros.’ sweet-and-salty pecans, and grazed on these throughout the evening.
Green foods bring good fortune in a few ways, health being the first. The idea is to begin the year with healthy foods while representing wealth and money with the color green. Therefore, our second course was a very green salad with baby kale, spinach, and arugula as the base. Then we added cucumbers, mint, pistachios, and an avocado and lime vinaigrette.
Another appetizer we prepared is a very loose interpretation of the Asian tradition of eating long noodles. Eating at least one noodle without chewing or breaking will give you the longest life and best luck. I used macaroni and cheese as the noodles. Then, I stuffed it inside long roasted green chiles and coated them whipped egg whites and rice flour for extra crispness. The long noodle — or in this case, long roasted chiles — represent longevity.
For our main course, the good-luck food was pork. Pigs search and forage for their food, representing finding new adventure in the upcoming year. We had roasted pork loin prepared three ways. One loin was rubbed with chile, salt, and pepper then served with a spicy red chile sauce. The second loin we rubbed with garlic, salt, pepper, and lime zest. Served with a purée made of chopped green chile and tomato. Finally, for the non-chile eaters in the house, we rubbed the pork with mustard, rosemary, salt, and pepper, and topped it with caramelized onions and dried rosemary.
Eating black-eyed peas with greens on New Year’s Day is a Southern tradition. The trick here is to eat one pea for every day of the year to ensure good luck and prosperity. For this recipe, I added tomatoes, green chile, and sausage to make the black-eyed peas charro-style. I added some buttered cornbread, which represents gold, to bring a prosperous year ahead. Another side dish that represents prosperity and longevity is haricots verts, or French green beans. I love my green beans with a copious amount of black pepper and diced tomatoes.
Once dinner is over comes the most important part of the meal: dessert! It is a tradition to open your doors at midnight. Not knowing which of us would still be awake at midnight, we chose to have some outdoor desserts after the main meal was completed. For a cold December night in New Mexico, s’mores and chocolate-covered strawberries were the two choices that survived a strenuous voting and vetting process.
Desserts have been prepared and consumed. So, now comes the challenge of figuring out how to release all of the kids’ chaotic energy in a focused and productive way. The first thing we chose to do was to paint a banner commemorating the craziest year of our lives, while welcoming the blessed New Year.
Our family has always been a board game playing bunch, but with COVID-19 we have been buying and playing more board, card, and drawing games than I even knew existed. Monopoly is a classic, but too long for NYE. Utter Nonsense, Phase 10, Say Anything, Clue, and even chess were all games that passed the time during the long, boring days of quiet and isolation.
However, on this night, we wanted games that were more lively and fast moving. The top two vote-getters were Telestrations, and a new age way of playing games on your smart TV called Jackbox. Jackbox is played from your smartphone and has multiple games, for all ages, all of which are extremely entertaining.
As the hour get closer to midnight, we gather around to record our regrets or dislikes of 2020. Then we set our resolutions for the upcoming year. We take the resolutions and make a 2021 vision board. Then we place all of our regrets in the cooling embers in the fireplace where we earlier roasted our marshmallows. Similar to Zozobra, once these past transgressions are burnt and become smoke, so go any regrets about 2020.
Around 11, we begin the dance party portion of the evening. This is where everyone gets to choose their favorite songs to fill up the hour. Everything from Billy Eilish to Billy Joel makes the playlist queue. This is a great way for everyone to show off their dance moves and express themselves while letting loose before the big countdown.
The final countdown is greeted with bubbly in each glass. Be it sparkling apple cider for the kids or the grown-ups’ flutes filled with New Mexico’s own Gruet brut. Three, two, one, cheers, hugs, and kisses for everyone, and then the grand finale — karaoke! For the past three years, we’ve plugged in the karaoke machine and sang in the New Year with our best impressions of alley cats until everyone starts falling asleep.
Although 2020 has been a trying year for all of us, the silver lining of this COVID cloud is the time we get to spend with those we love. This New Year’s Eve, be safe, and be glad 2020 is finally over.
Written by Daniel Gonzales • Photography by Amanda Gonzales
Originally published in Neighbors magazine | 2020