One of the traditions I’ve enjoyed in my family for New Years Eve is the way we do food. We start in the late afternoon into the evening cooking finger foods with all sorts of snacks as a buffet.
We have: BBQ pork, veggie platter with dips, mini corn dogs, jalapeno poppers, bagel bites, and anything else we can think of to add.
Buffet style grazing is great for relaxed family gatherings and parties with either limited space or a focus on something other than the food. Things like game nights, where you don’t have to put a lot of effort into cooking, or you can make platters beforehand. Wraps, fruit and cheese platters, veggie trays, and dips can all be premade. The chill of foods like these can keep your tongue from burning if you add in the fresh from the oven treats above.
A large variety of snack foods also makes it so those picky eaters or ones on special diets will be satisfied. Potlucks are another way for guests to always enjoy at least something. Since most people bring something they would eat, and usually in larger amounts than necessary, this makes it so there is plenty to go around.
You can also either have people select a type of food, or make it a themed party. One themed party that sticks out for me is the Olympics. Our family all split the types of food; appetizer, fruits, veggies, main course, sides, meat, desert, you name it. From there, it was a surprise what people put together for their presentation. Like a 7-layer bean dip with pretzel uprights for pole vaulting, or cheesecake lanes for curling, or a dipping platter using bowls or colored foods to imitate the Olympic rings, or food coloring in a punch bowl for swimming events, or even just having a smorgasbord of meats and cheeses with different flags, whether they are thematically coordinated or not.