At 12 o'clock tonight, the ritual will be reenacted. In a corner, someone will fumble with the dial of the radio, fearful that the living-room clock will be out of sync and that this one celebration will occur a minute too late or a minute too soon.
The sad, sentimental strains of Auld Lang Syne will fill the airwaves, the voices in the room will join in, and some people will kiss and some will toast the New Year. Then, a few minutes later, the party will fall flat.
No one will want to rush for the door for fear of seeming rude. But though people linger, they will be like folks who have stood in line for four hours to catch a glimpse of the world's fattest man, and then, having achieved this fabulous vision, found that they must make their way past six more boring exhibits before they can get to the door.
Do not let your party end with a whimper. Five minutes after midnight, bang a gong and throw open the doors to the dining room, where a fabulous supper awaits. Or if you have fed your guests earlier, reveal a buffet table that holds 15 different chocolate desserts and a crystal bowl full of raspberries.
Or go to the front door and admit the baby new year, who, in addition to being clad in a way that makes it imperative you let him in immediately, drags a sack full of predictions, listing what the new year will hold for each of your guests.
Or pass around a basket full of draconian resolutions and let each guest draw one. So much better than thinking up your own, which always are worthy and impossible: If you had been able to lose 10 pounds, you would surely have done it before New Year's so that you would look glamorous and slim for the holiday parties.
Think how pleased your guests will be when they draw Give Up Smoking, and already have. When everyone has a resolution, stand them in a circle and begin a story about poor Mr. and Mrs. Wright, who recently left Washington.
Each time the word right is mentioned, everyone must pass their resolution on to the right. When the word left is mentioned, the resolutions get passed to the left. See who winds up with what.
Then tomorrow, make your own resolutions. I know you immediately will resolve never to drink again and never to give another New Year's Eve party, but those are negative resolutions and you are no more going to stick to them than you are going to lose 10 pounds.
Make positive resolutions instead: Resolve to give an annual party on a date no one else is likely to hog. Think how many people were already booked when you invited them for New Year's Eve.
Think of how few people are likely to give a party to celebrate Whuppity Scoorie which, according to "The Book of Holidays Around the World," takes place in Lanark, Scotland, on March 1, when the church bells, which have been silent all winter, ring once again.
At the first stroke, children race around the church three times, hitting each other with balls of paper attached to strings. Afterward, people toss pennies at them. It is the ideal party, allowing for exercise, the working off of aggression, and the collection of cash with which to buy food.
Also, when you issue the invitations, no one will have the courage to wiggle out by claiming, "I'm already booked for Whuppity Scoorie."
Retrieve a friend from the past. Better yet, retrieve a lost girlfriend or boyfriend, giving a party, where for each couple you invite, you also invite one of their former flames. Won't that be fun? Or at least interesting?
Learn to say no when you don't want to go. Somehow we all have become convinced that going out is good for us. It isn't. It prevents us from going to bed at a nice sensible hour and getting up early and learning Estonian.
It does not improve your mind half as much as staying home and reading Homer in the original.
You will not lose weight at a party, even if you skip the dessert.
Going out is not good for us. It is fun. But only when you want to go. If you accept invitations when you want to stay home simply because you believe that Mr. or Ms. Right might be seated next to you at dinner, forget it. That will be the evening that Mr. or Ms. Right will have a flat tire right outside your house. They will ring your bell, seeking help, but you will never get to meet them because because you were out.
Vary your timing. It always is dinner, dinner, dinner. Instead, give a champagne brunch, a garden lunch, a winter tea, or turn your house over to midnight madness, renting "The Rocky Horror Show," letting guests come in costume and serving lots of popcorn.
After all, have you stopped to think that 1991 backward is 1991? Surely that must be a sign.
This is Susan Dooley's final Entertaining column for Style Plus.