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Can’t deal with New Year’s Eve? Try lunch.

I once asked a dear friend of mine, a man with at least several points more of IQ than a low-grade fever claims in mercury and a penchant for securing invitations from the hipster set, why he refuses to go out on new years' eve, and he told me, in no uncertain terms, "it's the ultimate rookie night". And he's right, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't go out and celebrate, and why I'm taking my wife to lunch instead of dinner. What, really, is more luxuriant, more celebratory, than ordering a cocktail or a glass of bubbly at lunchtime, or walking out of a nice restaurant, arm in arm and a little warm and tipsy, in broad daylight? It's very nearly downright naughty, and who's not a fan of that?

I once asked a dear friend of mine, a man with at least several points more of IQ than a low-grade fever claims in mercury and a penchant for securing invitations from the hipster set, why he refuses to go out on new years’ eve, and he told me, in no uncertain terms, “it’s the ultimate rookie night”. That was at least a decade ago (maybe two) and I have to say, the more evidence I accumulate, the more I have to agree with him, although that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go out and celebrate, and why I’m taking my wife to lunch instead. What, really, is more luxuriant, more celebratory, than ordering a cocktail or a glass of bubbly at lunchtime, or walking out of a nice restaurant, arm in arm and a little warm and tipsy, in broad daylight? It’s very nearly downright naughty, and who’s not a fan of that?
I don’t say this speculatively, because my wife and I have tried to scratch the new years’ itch in any number of ostensibly irreproachable ways: The extravagant meals from a celebrity chef; fancy-dress parties on a rooftops; bar-hopping and clubbing through one or another Earthly version of Gotham City; a weekend away at an impossibly quaint country inn; a potluck of couples at a snowed-in condo; even, once, in a display of shockingly bad judgment, we embraced, and survived, the beachfront anarchy of Phuket (I still wonder: How much booze does it take to convince innumerable throngs of otherwise sane people that lighting enormous quantities of fireworks inside structures made of naked wood and dry palm fronds is a really clever idea?).
Now, to be fair, we had a grand time, nearly every time, some of our evenings rank amongst the most memorable of our lives, and everyone should try it at one time or another; indeed, to this day, we still talk in hushed and excited whispers about a new years’ weekend spent hidden away in the Cotswolds, all cobbles and sheep and meals from Raymond Blanc’s garden, and our first night out after our first baby was born, as the benchmark for all new years before and since. But in the main, there is something about New Years that never quite lives up to the hype: Maybe its mismanaged expectations, maybe its the inevitable sense that you’ve paid to much for an otherwise ordinary dinner and mediocre champagne (or that you’ve paid the price of a car for a truly fine one), or maybe its simply the impossible physics of trying to encapsulate the joy of an entire year in a single night. Whatever the proximal cause, the effect remains the same, the inevitable onset of ennui poached in fine Champagne.
So here is my suggestion: Screw New Years Eve, and go to lunch instead. It’s not my idea – my dad and his wife have been driving into San Francisco for a fancy lunch on the 31st of December for as many as 20 years – but that only strengthens my resolve and reinforces my endorsement. This year, weather and baby sitter permitting, we’re going to ride our bikes around the valleys of our little corner of wine country before settling into a too-large and possibly boozy luncheon somewhere in town, and then waddle home, in time to spend the afternoon with our kids, and on a schedule that, with luck, will just keep us up to see the ball drop on Times Square – on New York local time, or an almost embarrassing 9pm on our Left Coast clocks. And here’s the other little secret: Go to Google Trends and compare “Dinner” and “Lunch”: See those huge spikes in “dinner” traffic after Thanksgiving, right before the end of each year? Those spikes are the reason you’ll pay so much to eat dinner out on Friday night. See the corresponding dips for “lunch” traffic at the end of each year? That’s why you won’t even need a reservation.

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Comments

One thought on “Can’t deal with New Year’s Eve? Try lunch.

  1. I never go out on New Year’s Eve. Sure, I had my fair share of midnight celebrating in crowded bars or parties. But as of late, I’ve had no interest in it whatsoever, and prefer a cozy night in next to a roaring fire as the clock strikes 12, rather than getting all gussied up to be surrounded by hordes of people. Of course, I have also wondered if I’m missing anything by not taking part, so it’s refreshing to see that someone else shares my sentiments. And I love your lunch idea too – a way to get out, and not have to make reservations eons in advance just to wait for a table.

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