A handful of years ago I lived in Utah with four school-aged kids. My sister visited us from Dallas with her three school-aged kids. The oldest in the group was 13, the youngest was three. We happened to be together the week of New Year’s so we decided to make it a big kid celebration.
The trick came with the age gaps of the seven children we had between us. What can you do to ring in the new year that would be fun for the little ones but not boring for the big ones? After a bit of research I came up with a plan.
First of all we agreed that the midnight thing was not going to happen. Not many in our group would make it that late into the night and even if they did, they would be too crabby to appreciate it.
So as soon as she showed we changed our kitchen/living room/dining room clocks. We moved them back exactly four hours. Six o’clock was now two o’clock, which meant midnight now officially came at eight. It was weird at first but we all quickly acclimated to the time change. It was an easy way to be sure everyone could be fresh at the ringing in stage of the night.
Then we lined the table with plastic tablecloths, handed out pre-crackered boxes, and let the kids decorate simple gingerbread houses. It is our family tradition, and I do it the cheater (easy) way. Of course there was a bit of eating of the supplies, but we offered as many healthier decorating options (shredded wheat squares, cheerios, crackers) as we did candy, so the snacking included both.
About an hour before the ‘new midnight’ we gathered around a ‘fortune wheel’ I’d made. It was simple to do and with the help of the internet, it didn’t take long to create. I rounded up a few dozen funny sayings/fortunes and printed them on colored paper (examples: “A day without sunshine is like, well…night” and “On the other hand you have different fingers”). I also included a few with sayings like “you will not fight with your siblings for the next 24 hours”, just for kicks.
For our ‘fortune wheel’ I took a wooden embroidery ring and taped the colored strips of paper around it, hanging it sideways. The paper fluttered in the breeze and made a nice hanging centerpiece until we started clipping the fortunes off of it. We had each child go up and pick a strip, snip it off with scissors, then either read it to the group or have an adult read it for them. They each got a few picks before the fortunes were all used up. There were many laughs all around and each child got to keep his/her colored strips of wisdom.
The last thing on the list, as we waited for the new year to arrive, was to line up our dining room chairs in a long line, side by side, in our dining room. At one minute till ‘midnight’ each child climbed on a chair and we did the countdown together. As we got to the part where we were chanting, “Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven!….” each child crouched down and when the ‘clock’ officially hit ‘midnight’ they all jumped as high as they could – ‘jumping into the new year’!
It was a hit with all the kids, from the big ones to the little ones.
After a bit of fake champagne in plastic wine glasses, everyone felt content and complete. The kids made their bedtimes, feeling like they’d had a real grown up celebration. I’d like to report that the grownups stayed up, after the kids were asleep, and rang in the new year in our own exciting way, but from what I recall, it was a miracle if we were even still awake when the real midnight struck. It’s surprising how much even a grown up body can be fooled by clocks that are set to be four hours off.