New Year's Eve Can Be Fun Even When Times Are Bad

The fancy dinners out, gala extravaganzas, elegant dinner parties and theater dates may be out of your range this year. If you've been laid off or your house is being threatened with foreclosure, even a festive home party may seem impossible. You are making a big mistake, because it is in just times such as these that we need our friends the most.

A couple years ago, I was in a serious panic about my financial security, my retirement woes, and my seeming inability to do anything at all about them. I was afraid to spend any money at all, and frankly, was so down in the dumps that it would have been a total waste if I had gone partying. But my friends and I came up with a wonderful way to spend New Year's Eve, that cost us very little, was amazingly entertaining, and is now a tradition that we look forward to doing for the rest of our lives.

Of course, we are in the last third of our lives, so we had no concerns about kiddies at home, or teenagers out at wild drinking parties, or even on the roads with drunks driving around. What we decided to do is have a pajama party.

Now, don't get nasty, or laugh at us. Think about it. What are the disadvantages of going out on New Year's Eve? Number one would be the huge expense, since all prices for dinners, shows, or hotel packages are usually greatly inflated for the holiday. And if you choose this form of entertainment you also need dressy clothing, accessories, a trip to the beauty shop, etc.

The second concern is drinking. At all of these events, it seems that drinking to excess is the major goal, which mean you will feel lousy, both during and after it is over. Driving in that condition is stupid and can be lethal, especially if you live in a cold climate where snow, sleet, and slush will further complicate things. And even if you aren't drunk, there are plenty of them on the road. Of course, you can always have a designated driver, who has a really terrific time pretending it was worth the money to watch you get stinking drunk.

Even if you made it through a really nice evening, where both the food and the entertainment were good, you weren't seated at a table with crashing boors, and you managed to sip your wine in moderation, you still have to take your aching feet and exhausted bodies home. This could include waiting in long lines to get a costly taxi, or, finding your car, warming it up, and possibly having to dig it out of the snow...and then facing the long drive home.

Actually, the hotel packages are a really good thing in this respect. It is far better to limp up to your room and snuggle into a warm bed at your hotel, sleep as late as you like, and have them serve your breakfast in your room. Pricey, but better than that long, cold drive home.

So quit snickering and listen up. What my friends and I do is simply this. In the late afternoon, they show up at my house with pillows, blankets, jammies, a change of clothes, snacks and games. Nobody is on the streets yet, so it is an easy drive. Everything gets dumped in the guest bedroom for the time being, food gets stored, and off we go for an inexpensive dinner BEFORE the streets are packed and they hike up the prices. Jeans and sweats are worn...this is all about comfort and convenience.

Upon arriving home, we figure out our nesting arrangements, which are somewhat simple in my home, since I have a guest bedroom, two sofa beds, another couch, and a cot. But if the party got bigger, I would simply tell them to bring sleeping bags. The champagne goes in the frig, snacks are laid out, and then we chat, play cards, dominos, catch phrase, trivial pursuit, or whatever we feel like doing, including television.

One of the most interesting aspects of this, is that we have, for years, joked about having trouble staying up until midnight to toast the new year. But last year, we were having such a comfortable, wonderful time that we were up until almost 4:00 am.

Once everyone is awake and hungry, we then make breakfast...usually pancakes or omelets, fruit, and whatever side meat someone contributes. By mid-afternoon we are usually ready to resume our daily lives. All of us agree that we wouldn't change a thing for next year's sleepover.

When I think of the ways I used to spend New Year's Eve, I realize how empty and sad those parties were. People get drunk and loud, and spend most of their time pretending they are having fun. We have no "morning after" blues, hangovers, or fear of having spent too much. Bonding with old friends is far easier in small, more intimate surroundings. And if you don't wake up in the morning with a headache and guilty feelings over your behavior or wasting money, it is truly a nice start to a better year.

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