You can start out the evening splurging on a really decadent meal, knowing that you are still paying much less to eat it at home instead of a restaurant. Make the food preparation a group effort with everyone assigned tasks according to their age or skills, and bring out the fancy dishes and candles. If you are ordering takeout food, be sure to place the order early and avoid the rush. Appetizers-only can be fun, too, and they can be spread out throughout the night.
Decide together on what you want to do that evening. Teens or young adults may feel they are stuck at home so be sure to talk to them about highlights of their past year and what they are anticipating in 2014.
Consider taking a walk in the brisk air -- it's a great activity to share and if it is truly cold, your home will look extra inviting when you return to it. A few hours out at a movie can also be fun.
You can make New Year's resolutions together, brainstorming about the best ideas and then each person choosing one and the others saying how they will help. Some family member may consider their own resolutions a private matter but be willing to help others with theirs.
Board games are fun as a family, and an extra twist might be to have some prizes on hand. Decorations or dressing up for the evening are optional. Maybe have a dress-up theme?
Toward the end of the night you can watch a movie or concert on TV, ending with the count-down to the new year. Have something special planned for midnight moment -- sparklers, champagne/sparkling alternative, singing Auld Lang Syne. Hats and noisemakers are optional but hugs and kisses must be shared by all.
When planning your New Year's Eve at home, remember that you can really choose do anything at all. There is no law that says you have to yell Happy New Year at midnight -- you can ignore it or even go to bed before the hour strikes. It's already midnight in New York.
--Dolores Fox Ciardelli