For many, New Year's Eve is spent quietly at home

December 31, 1992|By Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- In years past, Ramar's Party Center in Burbank Ill., would summon extra employees to handle the crush of people seeking party supplies on New Year's Eve.

"Our busiest day of the year used to be New Year's Eve," co-owner Mark Raber, 32, recalled. "I mean, we were just mobbed. It was total chaos. It was great."

This year, Ramar's will close at 5 p.m. on New Year's Eve, and Mr. Raber said he was hoping to sneak out earlier if customer traffic is as light as he anticipates. His New Year's Eve celebration?

On his way home, he plans to pick up "a nice juicy steak and lobster, maybe some shrimp," and cook for his wife and two kids.

"Personally, I can tell you, I got kind of tired of waking up with the biggest hangover of my life," he said.

So, apparently, do millions of other Americans. The quintessential lampshade-on-the-head, high-decibel frenetic party event of the year has evolved for many into a cocooning experience. New Year's Eve is becoming a dud.

XTC In a 1989 Gallup Organization survey, 55 percent of those responding said the prior New Year's Eve was a quiet evening at home for them. Only 17 percent said they went to a party; only 8 percent went to a nightclub. One percent of the respondents stated they just plain forgot.

There are many reasons people stay at home: fear of drunken drivers menacing the roads, or fear of being arrested as one; a national emphasis on a healthier lifestyle that discourages multiple margaritas at midnight; rising street crime; aging baby boomers; the recession; and who can get a babysitter, anyway? Whatever the motive, while some people continue to usher in the new year with hoots, streamers and overindulgence, it's clear that the night ain't what it used to be for many.

Bernard Beck, associate sociology professor at Northwestern University, says he can help explain this turn inward.

Sophisticated home entertainment is much more available than it was a decade ago, allowing people to get their kicks without stepping out for an entire evening, Mr. Beck said. He also noted that the recession has squeezed people's entertainment budgets.

Most people go out for two fundamental reasons, Mr. Beck said: to meet intriguing members of the opposite sex and "to get loaded" in various forms, he said.

The perception of growing crime has discouraged revelers, as has the onslaught of AIDs and other sexually transmitted diseases, Mr. Beck said. We're also a more health-conscious culture than years ago, he and others said.

In addition, tougher drunken-driving laws and increasing awareness of the dangers of driving while intoxicated are critical factors to tamer New Year's Eves, Mr. Beck and others said.

Moderation and logic seem to be the trend even among those planning to celebrate the new year in the more traditional party format.

Jennifer Fitzsimons, 22, of Park Ridge, Ill., will attend an evening of dancing, champagne and hors d'oeuvres with her boyfriend and nine friends at a hotel in Rosemont, Ill. The hotel is a five-minute drive from her home, and she doesn't plan on overindulging in the bubbly.

"I don't see any point to getting so drunk and getting really sick," she said. "To me, I don't know what sounds fun about that; plus you ruin the whole next day."

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