Noon Year’s Eve parties for tots gain new fans in Philly

Kids at the Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library celebrate “Noon Year’s Eve” by playing with a parachute. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Kids at the Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library celebrate “Noon Year’s Eve” by playing with a parachute. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

It’s like the old Philadelphia adage goes: If you can’t stay up till midnight to welcome the new year, just have your apple juice toast at noon with fellow tots.

Fine, that’s not really a widespread thing yet, but the idea of celebrating “Noon Year’s Eve” is gaining traction with young fans in Philly.

The concept calls for a New Year’s countdown a whole 12 hours early for the sake of little ones who want to get in on the celebrations, but often can’t keep their eyes open.

Though the origins of the practice are unclear, museums all over the country have adopted the noon celebration, incorporating balloon drops and toasts in their parties.

The Franklin Institute and the Please Touch Museum host the more established Noon Year’s Eve Parties in the city, but this year, Philly had no shortage of bashes.

PlayArts, the Smith Memorial Playground, and libraries in Olney, Center City, and West Philly hosted events.

“Kids know what’s going on holiday-wise,” said Jessica Walker, one of the children’s librarians at Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library. “Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas — they get a lot of stuff at school. But New Year’s Eve is sort of in that break where there’s kinda nothing.”

Kids at the Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library celebrate “Noon Year’s Eve” with a countdown, bubbles and noise makers. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Walker planned the library’s first Noon Year’s Eve bash in hopes of giving families something fun to do during the day this year. Dozens of local families answered her call Tuesday.

Some 30 kids, ages 8 and under, played with “parachutes” — those round nylon sheets from gym class — and took part in a noon countdown, which children capped with an apple juice toast.

Parents like Elizabeth Bodnar had heard of an early New Year’s celebration before, but this was her first time participating.

The party was a great way to introduce her young daughter to the concept of a new year, said Bodnar, and the celebrations that come with it — all without keeping the 3-year-old up too late.

“She probably could [stay up], but I’m not at an age where I’m ready to encourage it,” joked Bodnar, who planned to check out the waterfront fireworks with her daughter in the evening and then put her to bed.

Bodnar’s daughter, Mikaela Russell was a fan, which was all mom needed to plan a return trip.

“I liked to pop the bubbles,” Mikaela said with a giggle, referring to a machine that blew bubbles the size of her fist during the countdown to noon.

For parents like Krissy Kim, a Noon Year’s Eve party is also a great way to cap a long winter break.

“It’s just nice to get out of the house and do something that’s fun for them. We like to get out and kill time,” said Kim, who brought her three young children.

Kim, who attended one of the larger celebrations last year, appreciated the more intimate feel of the library event, as well as the price tag (which was $0).

But no party is perfect. A handful of kids, including Emanuel Davis, 10, felt too old for the noon party.

Emanuel left the parachute playtime to his younger cousins and instead cheered them on with his aunt on the sideline.

Eventually, Emanuel and relative Camaya Woods, 9, would go to another room and build Lego houses as they planned their New Year’s resolutions.

Camaya wants to make it to midnight next year, while Emanuel resolves “to have [his] room clean and decorate it.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.