New Year’s Eve parties are all about ringing in the New Year at the stroke of midnight.

But it’s up to the host or hostess to keep guests wined, dined and entertained for hours until the ball drops and the guests have had their fill.

A mixed crowd of kids and adults can also be tricky, but we’ve got you covered with a variety of party ideas to please any guest.

Since everyone’s watching the clock, try a numbers theme using the following ideas: 

  • Place a clock in the center of each table, surrounded by candles and glittery things. Or cluster a group of clocks in the center of the buffet on a riser (empty coffee can or small box covered with fabric). You can set the alarms on all of them to midnight if you’re trying to raise the noise factor and impress your guests.
  • Use number-shaped cookie cutters to turn finger sandwiches or brownies into numerical treats. Be sure to snack on the scraps or bag them for a hunger emergency — last-minute party prep doesn’t leave much time for feeding the host and hostess.
  • Go for a custom look with 2011 spelled out in chocolate on cookies, cakes or cupcakes. Pour melted and cooled chocolate chunks into small Ziploc bag, snip off a tiny corner, and squeeze and write to create chocolate letters or numbers on a piece of foil or parchment paper. Go thick to avoid breakage of delicate pieces, thinner if you’ve got talented hands. Stick in fridge or freezer to set, then peel off and place on top of any baked goods – homemade or store bought. Click here for illustrated step-by-step instructions.
  • Buy or make stick-on numbers (find them near the garage sale signs at most stores) – one for each guest – and have them label their cup or glass. This prevents cup waste and embarrassing glass mix-ups, and provides a great way to countdown to midnight. Starting with the largest number, have each guest raise their glass as everyone calls out the seconds to midnight – and then make your toast to 2011.
If your party includes kids, or the young at heart, individual craft bags and art projects are a great way to keep small hands busy until the clock strikes midnight or sleep overcomes them.
  • Use empty cereal boxes to cut out hat shapes, add used wrapping paper, ribbons, bows and pom poms for a make-your-own-hat kit. Add large rubber bands or long pieces of ribbon for an under-chin strap. (For more traditional New Year’s hats, check this out.)
  • Noisemakers can be made in advance or included in the project bag by using toilet paper or paper towel rolls, more wrapping paper or aluminum foil, and plenty of reusable dry beans or organic hard candies for a nice rattle. Add string or ribbon pieces to tie ends.
  • Creating resolution magnets is a fun way to pass the time. Decorate small pieces of cardboard with individual New Year’s resolutions, attach a piece of magnet to the back, and bingo – instant guilt trip each time you open the fridge.
  • If the budget allows it, consider stuffing all these goodies into a reusable tote bag marked with 2011 and the guest’s name. Bed, Bath and Beyond has totes with photo slots so they can add their own pix of the evening.
Using eco-friendly decorations and themes is a great way to start off the New Year, and easier than it sounds.
  • Save all of your gift wrap and use to create beautiful and festive streamers to spruce up the room.
  • Place a large box or plastic bin near the front door, and have guests bring food, clothing or gifts for the local homeless shelter. This is a great way to think of the needy as you celebrate and get a jump start on de-cluttering your closets. Include this info in the invite as an entry ticket to your party. Make sure to note that recently gifted sweaters, scarves and travel mugs are welcome, and confidentiality is upheld.
  • Use live herbs or potted plants in place of cut flowers, and have each guest take one home at the end of the evening to start their own 2011 garden. Include a small card with planting instructions and wishes for a happy and healthy New Year.
  • Check out your local thrift shop for funky tin containers. Use these for serving nuts, chocolates and fruit for a vintage look that celebrates the past while bringing in the future. After the party, these can be used to create time capsules to be opened next year, next decade or next century.
  • Light up the room with candles, LED lights and strategically placed mirrors for a festive, romantic and beautiful look that doesn’t overload the electric circuit.
If you’ve got more party ideas, please share them below. We’d love to hear how you plan to celebrate the New Year in 2011.

MNN homepage photo: domin_domin/iStockphoto