Plus, a tradition that will make your party guests smile.

Years ago, my husband and I spent one New Year's Eve at a restaurant in Barcelona. It was just the two of us plus a bunch of strangers, mainly locals over 60 years of age.

Every table at the restaurant had a "care package" filled with hats, masks, noisemakers and confetti, but since we are not exactly the dress-up-in-costume kind of people, we left that package untouched. That only lasted for an hour because by almost midnight every single person (60+) was wearing a full-blown New Year's Eve ensemble. Needless to say, we had a great time and ever since that night homemade hats are on everybody's head to ring in the New Year in our house.

When setting the table for New Year's Eve, I want it to look pretty but not too fussy. I use fabric napkins for an elegant touch, but I mismatch the plates for a more laidback style. Trying to be eco-conscious, I typically reuse the ribbons from Christmas presents as napkin rings (see how to get these ones inspired by Martha) and a little sprig of spruce, or herb, is always decorative and adds a little color to my Scandinavian-inspired monochrome palette.

The most fun moment of that memorable New Year's Eve was when the waiters brought out a dozen grapes for each guest. You are supposed to eat one grape at every clock strike at midnight (it sounds easy but don't be fooled by the power of grapes) so now I always place a small bowl with grapes by every dish when setting the table. It brings a smile on people's faces, and it's lovely to introduce new and foreign traditions to your guests.

My secret advice to you: don't place your centerpiece in the middle of the table. The food should be in the middle, so everyone can reach it and dig in. Flowers and decorations are, in my opinion, better placed at the end of the table so the food can get all the glory it deserves like this beautiful kale salad with roasted squash.


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