8 Fun & Simple Ways to Entertain on New Year’s Eve

This post was originally published last December, but the suggestions still hold water for your upcoming New Year’s festivities!

A New Year’s Eve celebration at home was always my preferred party mode and now that we have little ones, it’s an even more attractive way to ring in the New Year. No hefty babysitter fee, no cover charge, no late-night winter driving, just a good time in the comforts of our own home.

Of course, it’s also a great excuse to invite a few close friends over to play board games, set out some simple party food, chill a bottle of champagne in the snowbank, and set off fireworks at midnight. That pretty much sums up how we’ll be spending the last few hours of 2011.

There’s no better night than New Year’s Eve to entertain, but many of us are often worn out from the Christmas festivities and not interested in another cooking/cleaning project. The trick is to keep it simple and enlist plenty of helping hands instead of attempting an elaborate event on your own strength.

Choose one of these entertaining suggestions, customize it to your tastes, and start the new year surrounded by friends, but not completely exhausted.

1. Pot-Luck!

Perhaps the most simple way to feed everyone with the least amount of stress. Invite guests to bring a favorite dish for dinner, while you look after dessert (leftover Christmas baking, of course!) and drinks. Don’t forget the fireworks!

2. Sweet Table

We did this last year with great success. Set the invitation time a little later in the evening, say 8 or 9 pm. Guests will already have eaten supper and all you have to do is brew coffee, set out a modest selection of sweet treats, and prepare to welcome everyone.

Cheesecake, trifle, and pie are all great do-ahead desserts. Here are a few tried and true cheesecake favorites:

Don’t forget to include a plate of fresh fruit and a tray of that Christmas baking!

3. Finger Food

I’ve already told how I love grazing at a party, so it’s no surprise that I’d be perfectly happy to skip the sit-down meal, and celebrate New Year’s Eve with just finger food. For this entertaining option, ask guests to bring their favorite dip and accompaniment, while you pick up ingredients for simple appetizers.

A colorful vegetable platter rounds out the evening and a tray of assorted shortbread finishes the evening on a sweet note.

4. Wine & Cheese

Another simple way to entertain with minimal preparation. If you’ve got a corkscrew and can shop, you can pull this event off.

Purchase an assortment of cheeses, the freshest bread possible, and a few types of dried and fresh fruit to accompany the cheese. If you have time, these Fruit & Nut Crisps make the perfect accompaniment to cheese.

Tip: On a budget? Ask your guest to each bring a bottle of wine. You’ll stay under budget – and perhaps discover a new favorite wine!

5. Antipasto

The term ‘antipasti’ includes a wide selection of Italian-style appetizers that may consist of a combination of cured meats, cheeses, marinated vegetables, olives, bread, fish, seafood, dried and fresh fruit and much more. It’s an ideal way to feed people informally if you don’t feel like doing a sit down dinner.

Antipasti doesn’t involve much more than opening some jars, arranging sliced meats, and locating the best breads around. A great start is this antipasti platter from the Food Network.

Using the best quality products is key to a great antipasto! Also important is serving everything at room temperature, to better appreciate the flavors.

6. Fondue

A longtime tradition in my husband’s family. Best enjoyed with a small handful of guests and plenty of time to linger around the table, a cheese fondue supper is a wonderful way to ring in the New Year.

Try our family-friendly Cheddar Cheese Fondue or head straight for the stronger Swiss Cheese Fondue. Our favorite accompaniments? Crusty baguette, apples & pears, button mushrooms, cold shrimp, and asparagus spears.

7. Pizza Party

There’s no question, pizza is a crowd pleaser, and it doesn’t get any better than homemade pizza. Invite guests to bring their favorite topping, make a few batches of Honey Pizza Dough, and follow my step-by-step ‘How to Host a Pizza Party‘ guide for the best party on the block.

You’re guests will be having so much fun throwing pizzas in the kitchen, midnight is going to arrive before you know it!

8. Retro Comfort Food

Keep everyone happy with a buffet of the comfort food they loved as children. Roast a ham, bake off a deep dish of homemade macaroni and cheese (we love this recipe) and ask a friend to bring a chopped salad.

Bake a pan of brownies in advance and there’s your menu! Deviled eggs optional.

One More! And as a bonus idea, Kristen suggests a simple holiday cocktail hour, and gives her tips for keeping it fun and easy.

So, share with us, how will you celebrate New Year’s Eve?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. We’re coming up on our eighth year of hosting food-themed parties at our friends’ house in Boston. It’s gone from a tiny little paella party for 8 to Dutch food for 50 to a farm-to-table buffet for 80 people, but I don’t mind. Cooking lots of food is a fun challenge, and everyone loves that they don’t have to figure out a new party plan every year. This year’s theme: honey, in honor of the new beehives in the backyard!

  2. I’m not sure which idea I like more… comfort or finger food. Though that could definitely be made into the same thing 😉 We usually do homemade Chinese and other fixings.

  3. Great ideas! The less work the hostess has, the more fun it is. 🙂

  4. Some great ideas here! Even pre-kids, we hated going out on NYE–expensive, crowded, unpersonal. So we typically host New Years Eve or go to a friends. This year is fondue! What are you doing this year?

  5. Diana Grant says

    Great New Year’s Eve ideas! I prefer pizza party… All the members of my family love it! Happy New Year everyone…

  6. What is that yummy looking dish in your potluck part? It is multi colored.

  7. We’ll be heading to the snow for cross country skiing and snowmobiling. New Year’s eve dinner will be homemade Chinese food and we’ll be making my favorite Spinach Breakfast Strata for our New Year’s day brunch. Let it snow!

  8. We also prefer to stay at home, and make sushi together with friends. Board games and wine in front of the fire with dogs at our feet, once the kids are asleep.

  9. This year we are having a family over that we are good friends with. We are doing an early party because of the ‘littles’ and plan to play games and eat finger foods from the 50’s! Chex mix, cheese straws, cocktail nuts, meatballs, cheese fondue, bacon wrapped pineapple…
    Instead of alcohol I am setting up a mocktails bar with juices, nectars, sodas, and fancy drink accessories (umbrellas, plastic swords, cherries). 🙂

  10. Just saw you on the local news (CTV Montreal) — you are ADORABLE!

  11. Good idea for parties and I am hoping that i can apply this too…Thanks a lot!!

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