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'Where Does New Year's Eve Come From, Daddy?'

Thin tome celebrates the sparkle of New Year's

ATLANTA (CNN) -- What's your idea of a proper New Year's Eve? Play gin rummy with Mommy dearest? Hobnob at a swingin' soiree where the sparkling wine flows like champagne? Or maybe play pool and listen to a surf band at a bar where the dominant decoration is a sign with the warning: "Check knives at the door"?

Whether you love big bashes or prefer silk pajamas and mood music, Todd Lyon has penned a slender book of tips to make the most of New Year's Eve this year and next. She offers up 10 chapters of New Year's history and foolproof theme parties, shares recipes for potables like the Soul Kiss and Fuzzy Party Punch, circulates an assortment of clever hors d'oeuvres, and uncorks a complete guide to buying, pouring, and serving bubbly.

"Professional party boy P.J. O'Rourke has a formula for determining the size of your guest list: Figure out how many people your home will comfortably hold, and invite ten times that many people."

"Talk show host Conan O'Brien has his own unique picture of the future. Among other things he has announced that, in the year 2000, an angel will be born in Louisiana, sold to a carnival, and billed as "Ringhead, the Hideous Bird Boy."
In true countdown fashion, the chapters in "The New Year's Eve Compendium" are numbered backwards: Beginning with chapter 10 -- "Where Does New Year's Eve Come From, Daddy?" -- it drops through "Your 2K Plan" (chapter 8), "Eat Drink and be Daring" (chapter 5) and "Midnight in Your Very Own Garden of Good and Evil" (chapter 2) to end (or begin) with chapter one -- "A Toast to the New Year" (with an Alka-Seltzer postscript.)

There's New Year's Eve trivia (did you know that it's possible to shoot a champagne cork 177 feet?) and a time line of memorable moments in New Year's Eve history (in 1899, extra police were posted on the streets of San Francisco to keep strangers from making out), as well as selected toasts, great party games, predictions for the year 2000, and time-honored cures for hangovers -- even millennium-sized ones.

Lyon, who has written numerous books about creative living, including "The Domain Book of Intuitive Design", "Chic Simple: Cooking" and "Chic Simple: Paint", offers these thoughts on creating a party theme:

  • "Back in 1963 James Beard wrote rapturously about the American cocktail party, calling it the "twentieth-century salon." He praised its "spirit of relaxed gaiety" and its quality of being "as democratic as the subway."

  • The cocktail party, with its surefire mix of food, libations, music, and conversation, make it the ideal model for the ultimate New Year's Eve party. But in these giddy premillennial days, the cocktail party begs to be gussied up, tricked out, and otherwise elevated into the realm of the fantastic. That's where theme parties come in.

  • Great theme parties have a focus, a slant, a style all their own. They set a thrilling stage upon which guests can unleash wit and wild behavior. The boldest party-goers will rise to the challenge of a theme party in high style and bring much more than conversation and a bottle of wine to the table. Even the shy and the bashful, who aren't apt to dress up or role-play, will enjoy the show."
  • New Year's Eve should be anything but dull, Lyon suggests. So forget "auld" acquaintances, she says, and make the party sparkle.

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