Published January 13, 2015
Black-tie galas are being replaced with home-style revelry this New Year's Eve, as the effects of Sept. 11 and a sour economy keep Americans under their roofs instead of going out on the town.
Karen Blinkhorn of Ocala, Fla., won't be hiring a baby sitter this year, opting to have other families with their kids over to her home for the evening.
Instead of going to her usual slew of parties, Christine Sobolak, 23, of Chicago plans to cook dinner with her boyfriend. "Spending $150-plus on one night feels somehow inappropriate this year," she said.
Living just two blocks away from Ground Zero hasn't stopped New Yorkers Michael and Colleen Prichinello from throwing a dinner party at home. They decided to celebrate the New Year by making filet mignon and stuffed mushrooms for a dozen friends.
"A lot of them have been cautious about coming to our place in fear of what they might see," Michael said. "But I think that being there on the last day of 2001 with friends will give it a bit of meaning."
Hotels and restaurants may be pulling out all the stops to fill tables and rooms, but untraditional locales like houses of worship are getting inundated with requests to schedule New Year's Eve events.
The Imago Dei Metropolitan Community Church in suburban Philadelphia, for example, is hosting its first-ever New Year's Eve party.
Party suppliers are alert to the trend of gathering at a friend's or loved one's home to celebrate.
Sal Perisano, CEO of Boston-based iParty Corp., says he's seen a double-digit increase in sales for New Year's party paraphernalia, compared with the same period in 2000. Top sellers include red-white-and-blue party hats and noisemakers, as well as buffet trays and devices used to keep dishes heated.
Some larger celebrations — like Denver's citywide party — have been canceled because of concerns over safety and security costs.
And a lack of money or volunteers and terrorism fears prompted about 20 of 200 communities nationwide — from St. Louis to Staten Island — to shelve plans for First Night events, a nonalcoholic, arts-oriented celebration.
Bethany Young, 27, from Washington, D.C., says she's glad she's heading to Texas with her boyfriend to watch his alma mater, Washington State, play Purdue in the Sun Bowl.
"I figure that with all that's been going on around here, it can't hurt to get out of town for New Year's, just in case anything weird happens," she says. "El Paso seems like a pretty safe bet."
While it took a little longer than usual for the New York Marriott Marquis to sell out of rooms for New Year's Eve, the hotel overlooking Times Square did so late last week — and was on the verge of running out of spots at its $699-a-couple dinner dance.
"I think people were doing a little wait and see," Marriott spokeswoman Kathleen Duffy says, noting that some guests are flying in from Europe. "But it's good to see the endorsement of New York City."
New Yorker Deric Nance and his wife also reserved a Times Square hotel for a bargain $100 and plan to be sandwiched with the tens of thousands expected to flock to central Manhattan to watch the annual "ball drop"
"It is our first year in New York City, and we are not going to miss out," Nance says. "The 9/11 attack won't keep us from having fun."
Alan Wolfelt, director for the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colo., says that sort of response is to be expected.
"Trying to prove that things are OK," he says, can be quite normal and healthy.
But he cautions Americans from seeing this New Year's as "closure" on the terrorist attacks and war in Afghanistan.
"There will be a tendency to say, 'Now the year's over. Buck up and carry on,'" says Wolfelt, author of the book The Journey Through Grief.
"But we need to recognize the events of Sept. 11 were like yesterday particularly for family members and others close to the victims."
For some, celebrating at home is nothing new.
Each year, Brian Bierley of Bloomfield Township, Mich., toasts the New Year with sparkling grape juice and the same person — his grandmother Clara, now 90.
They play cards, watch a little football, eat good food and make confetti with paper punches, the 30-year-old Bierley says. Then they watch Dick Clark's annual New Year's Eve show, which is expected to be even more popular this year.
Bierley says the tradition has probably "cost me a girlfriend or two."
"But I always told them that they can have 364 days a year of my time," he says. "This day is reserved for me and my grandma."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.