With New Year's Eve just around the corner, our brains are already bracing for the massive abuse they will endure at the New Year's Party. And the After-Party. And the Second Day After New Year's Party.
Yet, despite the initial reflex of impending biological doom, there's also the after-taste of excitement. Because let's face it, New Year is the time when the best parties are thrown. Everybody's free from work and expecting to get loose and wild before the coming year plunges everyone back into routine and new work.
So, if a New Year party's done right, it will be memorable. For good or for worse.
In order to put things into perspective, in the lines below you'll get to read about 3 epic historical parties that left such a lasting impression they are still known today.
Feel free to gawk at the level of craziness their protagonists took it back in the day, just don't get inspired to organize something like this or emulate it yourself. Remember that most of these events were given their momentum by out-of-this-world personalities, huge celebrities or leaders of the time. With the resources to match. And in all cases there were dark sides and negative aspects to the wild partying too.
And I'm not just talking about the next day embarrassment for your deeds immortalized on social media, because they didn't have the technology then. But we do nowadays! So you have that added worry to take into account!
1. The Saving Punch
When Andrew Jackson got elected President for the first time in 1829, crowds went wild.
He was a war hero and his political platform relied a lot on populism. That is, the political ideology that in theory means the adopter believes in the rights of the common people and is “on their side”. Frequently though, history has proven that some politicians blur the line between populism and demagogy (read keep 'em happy with the measures you take, regardless of consequences, or keep 'em happy with false promises altogether).
No matter the category in which Andrew Jackson fits, the point is that the people adored him. And he knew how to keep on being liked too. As evidenced, among many other things, by the fact that he was the first President to invite the American public at large to attend his inauguration at the White House.
So when he got to there to be invested, 21,000 supporters were waiting as well. On the lawn. Because they had by-passed the measly measures designed to hold them out.
He threw a party which got so out of control that eventually, when the White House was full of out of control commoners smashing things, he had to climb out of a window to get free and distract the attention of the crowds with big tubs of punch placed on the lawn for their consideration.
2. Hippie Get-Together
Woodstock 1969. The coolest concert in recent history. Everybody has heard about it. Even those who have nothing to do with the hippie culture or rock in general.
Probably because of the 500,000 people that gathered there and partied for three days. The kicker? All that make love not war, peace and hippie tolerance really worked, apparently, because there were no violent incidents, no riots, no intervention by police or riot troops.
Which is impressive for 500,000 people compacted in a ~1 square mile area (Max Yasgur's dairy farm, where the concert was held, near White Lake, Bethel, NY).
Of course, there was rampant drug use, unprotected sex (read venereal diseases roulette fiesta), babies conceived without a clear indication of the father, starvation and dehydration as well as appalling hygiene. The latter three because it was practically impossible to move through the throngs to get water food or go to the toilet.
3. Game Time
When most people hear “Game Time!” they imagine entertainment based on some form of competitive sports.
This definition holds true for the ancient Romans too.
If “entertainment based on some form of competitive sports” also includes people hacking at each other to death with various implements of destruction at the mercy of the ruler and for the amusement of the crowds.
Yup, gladiators. The pro-athletes that quite possibly had the shortest career span in history and that make any modern extreme sports athlete look like a Frisbee player by comparison.
But if gladiator games in general are thought of as extreme, the Roman Emperor Titus took it to a whole ‘nother level.
He completed the building of the Colosseum (the biggest gladiatorial stadium ever) and inaugurated it in the year 80 AD. He had the good sense to throw an appropriate party for the occasion too, which is, by far, the biggest party that took place so far.
It lasted for three months (100 days) during which the whole of Rome celebrated. It featured orgies, drinking, more drinking, 9,000 animals slaughtered in combat with gladiators, some more drinking, human to human gladiatorial fights between 2 competitors or groups, and two mock naval battles (called “naumachia”) to top it off.
One of these battles might have been staged within the Colosseum, which was flooded with water for the purpose and real ships were brought in for the fighters.
How many people, you ask? Well, at least 55,000 which was the capacity of the Colosseum. To make a comparison, the biggest stadium in the world at the time of this writing is the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium in North Korea, which can hold 150,000 spectators, followed on a distant second place by the Michigan Stadium with 107,600.
55,000 in 80 AD would be at least the equivalent of Woodstock in modern times. Especially since there were far less people in the world at the time, so proportionately it is beyond impressive.
So yeah, a bloody, violent Woodstock is the most memorable party ever. Who'd have thought?