New Year's Eve is an awful, awful holiday.
First, it celebrates absolutely nothing. Most holidays have some sort of spiritual or historical significance—an underlying theme that gives meaning and purpose to the festivities. Not New Year's Eve. December 31st doesn't commemorate a religious event or the founding of a nation. The holiday only exists as a quirk of timekeeping, and wearing fancy clothes to party because December is turning to January makes about as much sense as putting on a tux to watch an odometer roll from 99,999 to 100,000.
The holiday is risky, too. And not just the threat of being horribly overcharged for watery drinks.
New Year's Eve is the ultimate Amateur Night—even worse than St. Patrick's Day or Halloween. On New Year's, tens of millions of Americans who are unaccustomed to hard drinking will binge all night like college kids on Spring Break—swarms of besotted humanity clogging otherwise pleasant bars and restaurants, yelling, crying, fighting, stumbling, kissing, barfing, and generally creating a sense of chaos.
The sheer number of revelers—and intensity of their revels—makes New Year's Eve a kind of logic-free zone, where anything can happen and usually does. You might find a hundred-dollar bill on the street. Or you might be the moron who loses a hundred dollars. You might find yourself in Vegas getting busy with a pretty blonde woman who later turns out to be a transsexual man. These things happen.
Given the hazards, in fact, it's a wonder any of us get through it alive. With a little advance planning, though, and strict, unwavering adherence to five simple rules, you can not only survive the holiday, but maybe even have a little fun along the way.
Rule #1: Rule Bring Your Own Booze
Under normal circumstances, sneaking liquor into a bar is very bad form. If you are caught drinking from a private stash, you will most likely be removed from the premises. Forcibly. On New Year's Eve, though, bars and clubs are so packed it's impossible to be served in a timely manner. Literally bootlegging is the only way to go. Besides, bartenders are usually so busy on New Year's you'll actually be doing them a favor by serving your own beverage needs. Just don't let anyone catch you doing it.
Rule #2 Don't Wear Ugly Hats
If you are going to celebrate a holiday—any holiday—don't be half-assed about it.
Every crowd has one dork who shows up to costume parties in street clothes, or goes drinking on St. Patty's Day and refuses wear green. Don't be that dork. If you are at Mardi Gras, go crazy for the beads. If you go to an Ugly Sweater party, wear something hideous. A proper New Year's partier needs noisemakers, balloons, novelty sunglasses, and, especially, silly hats. It is utterly vital, though, that you make the right hat choice, lest your evening be doomed. Never, ever wear a cone-shaped hat. Please. Ever. Oh, it may say "Happy New Year!" on the side, but everyone who sees you will just think, "Dunce." Get a purple plastic bowler with pink feathers, or don a shiny green cardboard top hat. Anything but a cone. Consider this: conical hats are traditionally only worn for two occasions; at children's birthday parties, where parents force kids to wear them, and on New Year's Eve, when people are too hammered to know any better. That's got to tell you something.
Rule #3 Don't Kill Anybody
Everyone knows that taxis can be expensive, and mass transit isn't always convenient. Being a designated driver is certainly noble, though staying sober and chauffeuring a bunch of friends around while they party Auld Lang-style is a good way to end up hating your friends. Those options are all superior, however, to crashing your car into a busload of schoolchildren because you were too drunk to drive, too macho to admit it, and too cheap to spring for cab fare.