Parents: Let the Azores save your New Year’s Eve

December 31, 2013

(Wikimedia Commons/José Luís Ávila Silveira/Pedro Noronha e Costa)

New Year's Eve is a parental nightmare. Babysitters charge extortionate rates.* Sugar and excitement abound, but there's no behavioral threat of Santa. Worst of all, small children get it in their heads that they should stay up until midnight. Which almost always leads to a screaming, crying, overtired tantrum the next day, right in the middle of your favorite bowl game.

If you, American Parent, find yourself in this predicament this year, I sympathize. My seven year old announced this week that he wanted to stay up until the ball dropped. I don't want to let him. I also don't want to spend all evening fighting him about it. So what's a parent to do?

In my family of origin, the solution was, New York. We spent most New Year's Eves in the mountains of central Oregon with friends, eating the stale gingerbread houses we'd made before Christmas and playing card games like Mille Bornes, which simulates a really long car trip, but in French. (Wild family, the Tankersleys.) When the clock ticked toward 9 p.m., the grown-ups would pour apple cider, and the kids would count down to midnight in the Big Apple. We'd blow horns and maybe light a firecracker or two and then stumble off to bed, well before actual midnight Pacific time.

If you live in the D.C. area, like I do now, New York doesn't help you. So this morning I went looking for a good substitute -- somewhere three hours ahead of the East Coast whose New Year we could ring in early. I found this. Three hours ahead of Eastern time is ... nothing, basically.

You could do London, but that's five hours ahead, and there's no way my kid will bounce off to bed a little after 7 p.m. on New Year's Eve. So that left me with only one possible solution, and I'm trying it tonight. If you're in a similar spot, I suggest you try it, too.

The Azores.

Basically the only real population center that will celebrate 2014 in my child's bedtime window is a string of islands about 1,000 miles west of Portugal. They're four hours ahead of the East Coast, so we'll break out the cider a little before 8 p.m. our time and act like we're there. If we get really crazy, we might work in a quick history lesson on the Portuguese Civil War.

And then maybe, in a few years, when he's old enough to stay up til 10, we'll move on to Brazil or Greenland.

* I'm obligated to point out, as an economics writer, that this is exactly what's supposed to happen.

Jim Tankersley is the editor of Storyline, where he explains complex public policies and illuminates their human impact.
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Dylan Matthews | December 31, 2013