Host a New Year’s movie night

Forget the media hype and the commercials for a moment. Going out or hosting an elaborate party isn’t everyone’s idea of how to start a new year. After all the fuss, the parties, the big meals and the shopping of the Christmas season it can be nice to tuck in for New Year’s Eve… But that doesn’t mean you need to forego the celebration. Whether you want to have guests over or simply enjoy an evening with your loved ones, hosting a movie night will let you combine festivity and relaxation.

So how can you do it?

Choose a theme

The trick to making the evening feel special is to select a theme. While you may be raiding your own DVD collection and cupboards, the key is coordination. The theme sets the mood and helps make it easier to select movies and food by focussing the choices. Here are some sample ideas to get you started:

Family favourites night: Make New Year’s special for the kids and grandkids with a movie night that includes their top picks. Some of this year’s family-friendly releases include Brave and The Lorax. Or maybe it’s time to bring out the favourite Disney classics, or settle in to watch the Shrek series or the Toy Story trilogy.

Start the New Year with a laugh. Comedy is always a smart way to go, whether it’s new releases or enjoying old favourites. Everyone has their own favourites, so soliciting ideas from your guests or family can help eliminate “the duds”.

End the year with a bang… of gun fire and explosions, that is. Indulge your love of action flicks to get your adrenaline running. Some of this year’s latest crop includes The Dark Knight Trilogy, Men in Black 3 and The Expendables. Multi-volume sets are always fan favourites with classics like Star Wars, Indiana Jones and The Godfather.

Girls’ night in: The pre-requisites? Good-looking actors, happy endings and chocolate. Some of this year’s hottest chick-flicks include Sparkle and Hope Springs. For some suitably sappy “New Year’s moments”, try When Harry Met Sally and Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Make your own marathon: Who says it has to be a movie night? There’s a wide range of TV shows available on DVD makes it possible to have a marathon of your favourite shows — without the commercials! Dig out those episodes of M*A*S*H or Friends and have everyone make a list of their favourite episodes.

It’s also a good opportunity to start watching a show you’ve never seen before. For instance, if you’re a fan of crime investigation shows, you might enjoy NCIS or The Closer. For something a little quirky, try The Big Bang Theory or the Gilmore Girls (especially if you’re from a small town or currently live in one). If you love period shows, catch up on seasons one and two of Downton Abbey before season three premiers in the new year, or try Canada’s own Murdoch Mysteries.

You can create a theme from any of your favourite movies — just look for common elements like actors or genre. It could be a “Harrison Ford Fling” or “Sci-Fi Favs” movie night. You can even select movies that exemplify a certain time period like the 70s or 80s. For some alternate activities, throw in some story-telling or acting games, or perhaps some movie trivia.

Select the snacks

There are hundreds of food and appetizer ideas out there, but the key is to stick to your theme and audience. For instance, gourmet treats won’t likely be a hit with the kids and pork rinds won’t wow them for girls’ night. The other trick is not to spend too much time on the prep work. Here are some suggestions to help you choose a menu:

Have some simple favourites on hand: Popcorn in its many varieties is an essential for any movie night, and it can be as plain or as fancy as you want — like caramel popcorn or a seasoned party mix. It’s an easy and quick snack to replenish if the bowl runs low. For some extra flavour, check out a bulk food store for shake-on flavourings — they’re cheaper than buying the bottled shakers at stores.

Use what you’ve got: Leftover crackers, cookies, candies or desserts? Bring them out! Remember the chef’s axiom that it’s all about presentation. In other words, it’s how you arrange them and the small decorative touches that will make the difference. Crack open a box of chocolates and arrange them on a plate with some strawberries, mint, and grapes. Make a plate of Christmas cookies and small slices of leftover desserts. Empty out your cracker boxes and chips and serve them with salsa.

You could also invite your guests to build their own sundaes. Use up the mixed nuts and Christmas candies, and add in some fresh fruit and chocolate sauce. Opt for frozen yogurt instead of ice cream for a lighter treat.

Share the prep: If company is coming, have everyone bring a favourite movie and appetizer or dessert. If kids are included, let them help you select the menu and prepare some simple snacks. It’s a great way to spend some time together, and they’ll learn a few new skills.

Strike a balance with healthy foods: Fruit and vegetable platters can help to balance out the heavier fare. The key is a good dip: you can purchase ready-made vegetable dips at the store, or use that dip mix you got as a gift. For an easy fruit dip, mix equal parts whipped topping and flavoured yogurt and garnish with a sprig of mint and a few berries.

And get out those fancy cutting tools to make interesting shapes and textures, or make up fruit skewers.

Keep the drinks simple: You want to spend time with your guests, not tending bar. Keep the options limited and use a few tricks to dress up the drinks. Garnishes like sliced star fruit and berries frozen in ice cubes can dress up pop and juice, candy-canes can serve as stir sticks for coffee, and marshmallows, whipped topping and a little cocoa powder or cinnamon can add some interest to warm drinks.

Prepare “lucky foods”: In various cultures, consuming certain foods at New Year’s is thought to bring luck for the coming year. Some foods, like cornbread and greens, are thought to bring prosperity and wealth because of their colour, while others are favoured for their shape — like lentils and Dutch Olie Bollen (a fruit-studded donut). In the Philippines, it’s tradition to collect seven different kinds of round fruit — not only is it a lucky number, but having abundance at New Year’s means abundance throughout the year. (For more information and recipes, see Foods that will bring you luck.)

Have something special for midnight: Break open a bottle of champagne for the “big moment” — or borrow a tradition from other parts of the world. In Greece, Vasilopita (a cake with a coined baked inside) is served in honour of a miracle performed by St. Basil. The person who gets the slice with the coin is said to have good luck all year. In Spain, it’s customary to eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight — one per stroke — in memory of a plentiful harvest. German and Scandinavian folklore says that eating herring at midnight brings luck.

It isn’t necessary to have special decorations, but a few New Year’s items can help create a festive mood. Think decorative napkins, a few streamers, balloons and maybe some hats with streamers if you’re feeling ambitious. Get out the champagne glasses even if you’re just serving ginger ale. Overall, don’t worry too much about doing anything fancy — your holiday decorations should suffice.

How much or how little you effort you put into preparing a New Year’s evening is up to you. Remember, it’s the simple touches that go a long way, and the prep work doesn’t have to be complicated.