How to Host a New Year's Day Open-House Party
If New Year's Day sets the tone for the year to come, why not host a party where everyone is welcome? The advantage of an open house is that it's a come-and-go event within a set timeframe. Choose a date and a time of day that works for your family—it could be early like a morning brunch or later in the day like a cocktail hour that transitions into dinner. If you expect to host families with younger guests in tow, the former may work best when energy is still upbeat and high (before afternoon nap time). And if you intend to mingle among your peers, the latter will be more apropos of spiked eggnog. Whatever you decide, be clear on your invitations about when the party begins and ends—for example, "Join us for a New Year's Day open house on Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m." The rules of etiquette are less strict, and guests can come and go at their own leisurely pace.
For the menu, think hearty and plentiful: Dishes like beef bourguignon soup, kale salad with roasted squash, or savory chili will all feel like a welcome respite from the winter cold. For your signature sip, consider a pot of mulled cider that simmers over the stove or a classic hot toddy, which is always a crowd pleaser. You may even want to outsource some of the cooking by making it a neighborly potluck. Set up the buffet table—preferably one accessible from all sides—with flatware, plates, serving dishes, and napkins. You can also prepare a bar station or a coffee-and-dessert station, if needed. Table decorations and holiday centerpieces are already done from your home entertaining in the month of December.
Once the date is set and your planning all done, relax and watch the guests ramble in.
Welcome Your Guests
Don't pack up the decorations from last night's countdown just yet—sparkly tinsel garlands make for flashy party décor that shines just as brilliantly in the new year's daylight. To make this banner, cut this year's numerals out of card stock; then, punch two small holes at the top of each numeral. String them onto a length of ribbon. Use a hot-glue gun to attach a length of tinsel garland to each number, snipping the ends. Hang it with thumbtacks above the mantel.
Mix Up a Bloody Mary for All
A little hair of the dog won't go amiss on New Year's Day. Keep a pitcher or two of Bloody Mary mix at the ready and let guests stir up their own on an as-needed basis.
Build a Cheese Board
Aromatic herbs and a pinch of spicy red-pepper flakes enliven the subtle, creamy flavor of fresh mozzarella. Pair it with your favorite salami, olives, and crackers on a grazing board for the guests to pick at for themselves.
Make It Pop
Rich caramel sauce with a tinge of toasted black and white sesame seeds are the elegant toppings for this homemade popcorn. Whip up a batch in minutes, then serve in these striped boxes. (To make the process seamless, make sure you have all your ingredients measured out and ready before starting your caramel.)
Heat Up the Boeuf Bourguignon Soup
Bake Classic Cornbread
The perfect companion to a mug of chili or a bowl of stew, this cornbread strikes the right balance between tender and crumbly. Jazz up the batter by trying flavor combinations such as bacon-scallion cornbread, cheddar-jalapeño cornbread, or herbed cornbread, or shake up the shape by baking it in muffin pans.
Offer a Winter Salad
Don't confuse this for your everyday side salad! This one marries raw kale with roasted butternut squash and shallots, toasted hazelnuts, and aged goat cheese shavings. Go ahead and dress it in advance: Kale is robust enough to stay perky for the long haul.
Bake "Jamaretti" Cookies
Decide on a Parting Gift
It's nice to send people home with something, whether it's a small tin of cookies, a box of candy or fudge, or paperwhite narcissus bulbs. To present a green gift—rosemary, orchid, paperwhite, mini boxwood—that guests can enjoy at home, simpy spray-paint a paper sack in a metallic shade.