New Year’s Stay Here

I love the holidays and to me, New Year’s Eve is the perfect culmination of the season, as it’s followed by a fresh, hopeful new beginning. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of hosting numerous New Year’s Eve parties, and also being a guest at both large and small events at everything from private homes to restaurants to large hotels. And after awhile I developed a definite preference that may have surprised a younger me. Even though I have the photographs to remind me of the big-scale celebrations, the most memorable of them were the intimate gatherings in private homes, the smaller the group the better. At those big parties, it’s easy to get swept up in the moment; I’ve kissed a lot of people at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Today I wouldn’t recognize them if they showed up at my front door. Contrast that to the attendees at the smaller venues — people I still count among my friends.

In my opinion, New Year’s Eve is best spent at home with your nearest and dearest. Many restaurants charge a premium price for a prix fix dinner that includes a glass of champagne. And while this is okay, even if the food is as good as on a regular night, and the service magically remains at par with the rest of year, there is always the air of forced merriment: “I paid for it so I’m going to enjoy myself!” and “Isn’t this fun?!”, spoken less as an observation as much as to convince ourselves. Plus there are always those who imbibe a bit too much and get sloppy. Not my cup of tea.

For me, the best parties are private house parties where people are invited to dress for the occasion. Dinner is served late and at the stroke of midnight, champagne is followed by dessert and coffee.

New Year’s Eve is supposed to be about reflecting on the year gone by and the promise of the coming year. Why not ring in the New Year with people that you love and adore — and whom you’ve spent that year — rather than a room full of strangers? That said, there might be times in your life when you find yourself away from home on New Year’s Eve. In that case, a beautiful dinner in a small intimate restaurant is my idea of a good time. I remember fondly one New Year’s Eve I spent in Venice, alone and seated at Harry’s Bar; I ordered a glass of champagne and it came with a crown to wear for the evening. After dining amongst impeccably dressed women and men, at the stroke of midnight, I ran into Piazza San Marco, looked up and thanked my lucky stars for this beautiful experience and for how wonderful it was to be surrounded by such beauty and history. (And yes, I kept the crown as a souvenir.) Today I would have felt even less alone as I would have been sharing my New Year’s Eve experience in real-time with my friends around the world on Facebook and Twitter. No matter where you are you can always be “with” others.

In my book, even a fabulous dinner at home for two with your spouse or loved one will always trump driving, an expensive dinner out, bad service, cheap party hats and bulk champagne.

Whether for just you two or a few friends, dinner at home will cost you a fraction of dinner out, so you can afford to splurge on treats that float your boat and some good champagne.

Here are my sMARt tips:

Less is more and more is better when you’re at home. What do I mean? The fewer people you have the more you should splash out — it feels more like an indulgence that way. The best part: it doesn’t have to cost you more. Set an elaborate table with your best everything, from tablecloth to dishes to glasses. Be sure to set it a few days in advance so you can enjoy it in the time leading up to the evening. Anticipation is a wonderful thing.

Plan a special dinner. You may choose to cook the entire dinner or buy part of it, do whatever makes you happy. I love to splurge on my favorite specialty foods like caviar, pate and other delicacies that I don’t eat every day. Don’t forget some exotic cheeses, really good bread, and olives. I also love to get really good wine and champagne. It will cost you less than half of what you would pay in a restaurant. If you’re dining at home, you can eat and drink well for a lot less — and the leftovers are easier to carry home! So splurge a little. You deserve it.

Dress up and wear good shoes. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you can’t put on formal dinner wear. Everything feels more festive and special when you’re dressed. And besides, how many chances do you get to wear that fabulous gown or tuxedo? Break it out, wear it and enjoy it. Ring in the New Year with style.

And don’t forget to take lots of pictures. You would be snapping photos right and left if you were out on the town. So make a point to document the special moments at home as well. Make it a night to remember for years to come with great photos.

So, whether you choose to go out or stay home, make your New Year’s a MARvelous, memorable one by making it your own. Do the things that will make you feel special and inspire you for the coming year. Raise a glass (of anything) and toast to the special moments that make life worth living.

And there you have it!