By Rachel Castor
Somewhere around New Years Eve when my oldest daughter turned six, she asked to “stay up for New Year’s Eve,” so I started looking for some fun ideas on what we could do with 3 young children for a December 31st tradition. We decided to have New Year’s Eve Bags and it turned into a favorite family tradition that we have done for five years now.
I purchase about 6 colorful plain gift bags with no designs and each is labeled with an hour: 6:00 pm, 7:00 pm, etc., all the way until 12:00 am. In each bag is a different family activity that will last until it is time to open the next bag. Each bag is top secret and can’t be opened until that hour begins. However, the 9:00 bag is always my favorite- be sure to see details on that below!
I’m not sure where I originally picked up the idea for doing hourly activities for New Year’s, but we fine-tuned it a bit and made it our own, and I am sure that we will continue to adapt it as our children get older. You can also modify it to include other families or friends of your children. Or, if your children are young, you could be like us- until last year, the clocks were all changed, the children were all in bed by 11:00, feeling as though they had celebrated their little hearts out, and everyone got a little more sleep than they would have otherwise.
Here are some examples of things we have included in our bags over the years:
(Note: Two years ago we began starting our bags at 5:00 pm because the girls were itching to get started. The early ones aren’t super exciting, but they are still happy to get the festivities under way!)
5:00 pm- This is always a fun baking/snack-making activity (all of our children are girls) — often something simple like melting Hershey Kisses on pretzel squares and pressing on M&M’s — something that can involve everyone! They do not eat the treat until later in the evening.
6:00 pm- Fun paper goods, streamers to decorate the dining room, and a treat to go along with a dinner- chopsticks and fortune cookies for Asian noodles, or Italian decorations and Parmesan cheese to make your own pizza, etc.
7:00 pm- This bag is almost always a game-possibly a much anticipated Wii game (either purchased or borrowed for the night), or a huge puzzle, Pictionary, etc. This year, it’s Mousetrap- I always loved that game as a child! There is also play dough and new play dough toys for the littlest girls.
8:00 pm- Now, keep in mind I have only daughters, so crafting is big in our house. So, usually there is a bag with something crafty- painting pillowcases, hair wraps, etc. This year- Sun Catchers- another childhood favorite of mine. You know- sprinkle all of those crystals into the metal frame, bake them, and hang them on the window? We have also headed out of the house before-something like cute fuzzy socks or new jammies and a Starbucks gift card. They put on their fuzzy socks or jammies, load in the car and go for hot chocolate. Sometimes it has been a great new book to read aloud while we sit by the fire.
9:00 pm- This one- this is my favorite. We always burn a DVD with all our pictures from the year and play it in slideshow mode. It’s always so much fun to replay the highlights and happenings of the year- always much laughter and tears. It’s wonderful to take the time to reflect on God’s goodness and the ways we have grown that year. Then we set goals for the new year. My husband and I present each of them with a sheet that has their name on it, as well as a character quality that we have decided is appropriate for each child to work on cultivating that year, and verses to support it. Then, they set three goals each for the year. (Before we start, we look at the previous year’s goal sheets, which is always so great to see how God has been faithful to change their hearts in the areas we focused on.) I have these laminated and they hang on their bedroom walls where we can read the verses to them at bedtime and daily be reminded of the character they are working on and the goals they have set.
10:00 pm- So, yes, by 10:00 they are getting pretty worn out. The 10:00 bag is ALWAYS a movie, something they have never seen, and we settle in on the living room floor with pillows and blankets and start a movie.
11:00 pm- At this point, at least the little ones are asleep, but the bag always has new mugs or plate and cup sets for milk and the snack they made (remember way back at 5:00 pm?).
12:00 pm- As you would suspect, all the fixings for the clock striking midnight- hats, beads, noisemakers, etc. We open this one about 5 minutes until 12.
And, by 12:07, all eyes have closed and the party is over. As I mentioned, sometimes I have borrowed games, I re-use the bags and noise-makers every year, and remind myself that it is more about the togetherness than making it impressive. All it takes is a bit of work and creativity and it can all be pulled off without a whole lot of planning and spending. And, we have created a family memory that we hope will last a lifetime. Again, I know it will change and grow as the ages of our children change, but I do hope we can continue the tradition in some form for many years!
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