Cheers and jeers will be in abundance as Americans learn who their next president will be. Anxiety about the big decision is leading many people to forego a quiet Election Night at home in favor of parties and other gatherings to avoid facing the outcome alone.
After months of particularly contentious exchanges between President Bush and his Democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry, some voters are scrambling to find plans for the big night.
"I kept hearing people saying it would be great if there were something going on -- and I heard it enough -- that I said, OK," said New Yorker Katrina Monzon. She's organizing a gathering at a local bar where several dozen of her friends will gather for the decision.
"Typically I'm home watching the results like everybody else," said Monzon. "It's never really felt like an event before."
But this time seems different, she said, "Nobody wants to deal with [this] on their own."
On the West Coast, active Democrat Jessica Brys Brownswell and her husband are gearing up to serve chili, chips and beer to a bipartisan crowd in Orange County, Calif.
"We're really excited for Election Day … I can't wait," she said. "Hopefully it will go our way, but if not, we'll be holding our beer."
Even those who plan to stay at home do not expect a quiet evening. "Oh yeah, we'll be receiving a lot of phone calls and making a lot of phone calls," said Patrick O'Keefe.
The orthopedic surgery resident plans to sit in front of his TV with his wife. He said he's rooting for Bush, and if the president wins a second term, he'll probably head into nearby Chicago to find a celebration.
And if Kerry wins? "We definitely won't be doing any celebrating," said O'Keefe.
'Pins and Needles'
Swing state voters have been inundated with stump speeches, leaving at least one Michigan resident looking to escape from all the politicking.
Helen Jensen, who runs a child-care center in Ann Arbor, said she usually sits by the TV as the election results pour in, but the last few weeks have been so "stressful" that she's going to vote and then tune out the coverage.
"My girlfriends and I are going to see 'Shall We Dance?' -- something light and fun," she said. "I just don't want to spend the whole night on pins and needles. I just want to go out and enjoy life."
This kind of stress has others preferring to avoid friends for the night when the country will be broken up into blue and red states.
"[I] turned down a party to stay home and watch results alone with my husband," Maryland resident Sharon Mayhew said in an e-mail.
"I just knew we wouldn't be good company with our excitement if Kerry wins and our abject depression and anger if Bush comes out ahead," explained Mayhew. "We also canceled business meetings for the next day assuming a late night waiting for results.
"I'm a native Washingtonian and politics is our recreation and gossip in this area," said Mayhew. "I have never seen this area more anxious or concerned about an election as this year."
For some, that anxiety harks back to the 2000 election when the outcome remained in limbo for more than a month.
One voter said she'll retrace her steps and hope for a different outcome in this vote. "I will be sitting in a local pub in the same spot I was four years ago when all of the trouble started," Angela Stacey of Austin, Texas, said in an e-mail. "There will be a group of about 10 of us -- all of whom have been so wound up over the past few years that our nerves are ready to go haywire."
Regardless of the year and candidates involved, the tradition of hunkering down on the sofa as Senate races, congressional picks and other votes are announced still stands strong. "We are planning to have a nice home-cooked dinner and then sit down and watch the results," said Long Island, N.Y., mother Tommie Russo.
"We are hoping that the teachers of America give no homework so that this country's children can observe the process without worrying about doing homework," she said.
While children and voters of all ages may hope to observe the process for just a single evening, the Gore-Bush election and its army of lawyers and days of recounts have left some with the fear that it's no longer possible to find closure on Election Day.
"I expect to wake up Wednesday morning and hear that two, three, maybe four states haven't finished counting the ballots yet and that it could be weeks before we hear who won," commented Bill Fisher, of Dexter, Mich. "So what am I planning on doing Election Night? Getting a good night sleep!"