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A stay-home New Year's Eve

After the hubbub of Christmas, slow it down for New Year's Eve and stay in with the family.

Ringing in the new year doesn't mean you have to hit the bars and the bubbly. There are plenty of family-friendly ways to celebrate and keep it low-key.

This could be the year you start a family tradition for New Year's Eve, and you may want to invite friends and neighbors to join you as well.

ACTIVITIES

Keep it simple by giving everyone a turn to share the best and funniest moments of the past year. Or if you want a more involved project, create an end-of-the-year scrapbook with your favorite highlights of the past year. Let each family member make his or her own page, as well as those involving the whole clan. Gather photos, postcards, even a year's worth of magazines to capture 2009.

Games of any variety also are a fun way to lead up to the new year. Board games, charades, cards, whatever gets the whole family involved.

DECORATIONS

Kids love goofy hats, balloons, pinatas and noisemakers. And local discount and dollar stores have plenty available for cheap. But save your sanity and avoid the confetti and streamers -- unless you really want to spend New Year's Day picking it out of your carpet.

GUEST LIST

If you want more of a party, invite other families with children around the same age to join you. Get friends and neighbors in on the fun, and keep everyone off the road. Having other adults around also offers the bonus of others to help watch and entertain the children -- and you don't have to pay for a baby sitter.

FOOD AND DRINKS

Keep the party alcohol-free (at least until the kids go to bed). Add 1-inch Jell-O squares in red, blue and purple to a plastic champagne flute of ginger ale or 7-Up for a festive treat. Or pour sparkling cider.

Take-and-bake pizzas and heavy appetizers will keep everyone going throughout the night. Kids love finger foods, so don't mess with a fancy sit-down dinner. For dessert, create a make-your-own sundae bar with tubs of ice cream, fudge, whipped cream, the works.

If you're hosting a large gathering, a potluck is the cheapest and easiest way to go. And what a great way to unload all those leftover Christmas cookies.

THE MAIN EVENT

When you have little ones at home, keeping them up until midnight to ring in the New Year can be exhausting; even more so if your kids still get up at 5 a.m. no matter what time they went to bed the night before. So set the clocks forward and let the wee ones whoop it up when "midnight'' strikes -- at a respectable 9 or 10 p.m.

After the youngsters celebrate and get tucked into their sleeping bags, the parents have a good two to three hours to celebrate in their own way.

THE MORNING AFTER

If the party turns into a sleepover, even better -- no drinking and driving, please. When everyone gets up the next morning, cook up a huge breakfast and watch the 121st Rose Parade.

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