Step-by-Step to a Fabulous Northern Michigan New Year's Eve Celebration

Want to celebrate New Year’s Eve the simple way, with life Up North as your inspiration? Gather family and friends close, light a roaring winter bonfire and host an outdoor feast that will warm the body and soul. Here’s the roadmap for a lovely way to ring in the new year, from preparation all the way through “Auld Lang Syne.”

If you don’t already have an Up North New Year’s Eve tradition, here’s a recipe for one. Take what you like from it—part of the secret for a satisfying evening is realizing that you don’t have to do it all. But whatever you do, take a moment to look up at the icy winter stars and be grateful that we live in a place where they still shine brightly. And have a Happy New Year.

The Legend: The Story of Stone Soup

Stone Soup is a classic folk tale told for centuries in various languages. Though the central characters vary a bit, the theme is always about sharing. As the story goes, a hungry traveler (or travelers, or soldiers) turns into a village looking for a meal. Instead of inviting him to  dinner, the villagers hide their food. The traveler gently tricks them into sharing by showing them how to make stone soup—the traveler provides a stone, the curious villagers bring the other ingredients. In the end, everyone enjoys a feast. Stone Soup by Heather Forest (August House, 2000) places the tale in a contemporary village. The large-sized book with its bright illustrations is a nice way to introduce guests to the story.

The Menu

The Set-Up

Use a picnic table, or a piece of plywood set on logs.  Forget the silver and crystal. Put out your best selection of mismatched mugs and plenty of soup spoons. Don’t forget skewers for toasting bread and marshmallows. Spread an indulgence of candles for the centerpiece and light last summer’s outdoor torches.

The Countdown

Forward planning

Send out invitations with assigned ingredients for the soup. Shop for other recipe ingredients and gather items for party games. Make cookies for Snowstorm s’mores.

New Year’s Eve Day
Morning: Prepare your part of the stone soups.
4 p.m. Walk in the woods to relax and collect kindling for the bonfire.
6 p.m. Build the bonfire and set up brick/grate arrangements for the two pots of soup. Light the fire. Cut up chunks of crusty bread. Put out grated Asiago, olive oil and pastry brush to spread the oil. Set the pots of soup on the grates. Light the candles and torches.
7 p.m. Guests arrive. Add a stone to each pot, then help guests add the ingredients they’ve brought. As you work, share the story of Stone Soup.
8 p.m. Serve soup, bread.
9 p.m. Place bowls of melted white and semi-sweet chocolate in beds of hot coals to keep them warm and gooey. Toast marshmallows to press between Snowstorm s’more cookies (see recipe, page 53) and dip in the chocolate. Stargaze while you munch.
 9:30 p.m. Warm up inside with People Poetry around the coffee/ hot chocolate flavor bar (see below).
11 p.m. No drowsing off before the big moment. Wake up with a snowball fight.
11:45 p.m. Stash bubbly and glasses in the snow. Hold hands and drop to make an angel-in-the-snow chain. Outline the angels with candles.11:58 p.m. Light the candles. Go ahead, break out in “Auld Lang Syne.” Toast the New Year.

Coffee/Hot Chocolate Flavor Bar

Arrange brewed carafes of coffee and hot chocolate with cinnamon sticks, candy canes, dried orange peel, shaved chocolate, whipped cream, flavored syrups, eggnog and assorted liqueurs. Set guests loose to invent their own designer drinks.

Party Games 

  • Point your guests to the heavens. To help identify the likes of Andromeda, Cassiopeia and the Ursas, collect small bright objects (buttons, beads, even change) and arrange them in the snow to form the shapes of the constellations.
  • Snowball fight! With fluorescent tape make Xs on everyone’s back—but leave an “it” unmarked. Object: “It” targets Xs with snowballs. Once you’re hit, remove your X and become an “it.” Last one to be nailed is “it” for the new game.
  • Play People Poetry. Go crazy writing verbs, nouns and articles on a stack of index cards. Spread them out face up. Take turns drawing words and line up choosing the order in which you want your word to appear.

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