A few tips are key to a good New Year’s Eve party

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(Host) Halifax resident Matt Maranian gained a reputation as the anti-Martha Stewart with his book, “Pad: the Guide to Ultra Living.”

He followed that with, “Pad Parties,” a guide to home entertaining.

Maranian’s taste runs to early sixties tiki bar d cor, fake fur pillows and scavenged art objects. But his advice on being a good host is classic.

A few seasons ago, VPR’s Susan Keese asked Maranian for some tips on that perennial party challenge -New Year’s Eve.

(Song, “What are you doing New Year’s?”)

(Keese) Matt Maranian agrees that New Year’s Eve parties are seldom as much fun as people think they should be.

(Maranian) “Any occasion where, you know, people who would most likely be staying at home feel compelled to go out and really whoop it up, I think really makes for a bad combination. And I think that’s why so many New Year’s Eve parties are so insufferable. And you’re also required to stay there until the stroke of midnight.”

(Keese) But Maranian says New Year’s Eve parties are like any other party is most ways. You’re bringing people together. And you want them to mingle and have a good time.

(Maranian) “But you’ve got to do it with a little finesse, so that the occasion doesn’t seem too forced.”

(Keese) Music is one tool a host can use.

(Maranian) “Even something as subtle as the baseline of a song can completely change the mood in the room. You can kill the mood in a room in three seconds with the wrong piece of music.”

(Keese) Maranian believes in treating every guest like the guest of honor. But he also puts people to work. He purposely leaves a few chores undone so the first arrivals won’t be left standing around awkwardly waiting for the fun to start.

(Maranian) “I always give them something to do – could you fill the ice buckets? Or, could you slice the limes? Or, you know, could you- and oftentimes that will help to create some kind of segue when the next guest arrives.”

(Keese) Maranian uses the same principal to avoid spending the entire party bartending.

(Maranian) “I know certain people in the room that have their drink specialties. And if someone wants a drink I’ll say, Oh, so and so, she mixes a great Shark Bite. When people start mixing drinks for one another, it’s a way to get conversations going and get people engaging.”

(Keese) Another trick for getting guests to engage with one another is interactive food. At a recent party at his home in rural Halifax, he served fondue. The guests are gathered by the fireplace around a low table, spearing chunks of bread and fruit and dipping them in warm cheese. The conversation is flourishing.

Another edible conversation starter is Maranian’s wasabi guacamole.

(Maranian) “You eliminate all the Mexican elements to guacamole and replace them with Asian. So it’s one of those party foods that people approach it and they think they know what they’re going to get, and they’re always surprised. People talk about it.”

(Keese) Of course a party is only as good as its guests. Maranian likes to start with a group of people who know each other well. Then he introduces new guests to the mix, so there are plenty of introductions and new things to talk about.

Maranian says he gauges a party’s success by the number of people who exchange phone numbers when it’s over.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese wishing you a happy New Year.

Note: This story was first broadcast in 2003.

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