Host Guide: Circle These Dates

  • Jack Smith

We love a party. You name the event, and we will hold a party around it, whether it is a horse race (the Kentucky Derby), a historical event (Bastille Day), a good cause (charity fund-raisers), or even something as unavoidable as the passage of time (birthdays and reunions). We will celebrate anywhere, in ballrooms or ballparks, in hot tubs or around a bottle of Haut-Brion 1982. We will arrive in come-as-you-are casual or in dazzling white tie and tails, relaxed and insouciant in tropical linens or costumed as Blackbeard the pirate. 6 But why restrict ourselves to the conventional, to the tried and true, when there is so much more to commemorate, so many other reasons to add excitement and sparkle to the social calendar? As the following list of 21 occasions demonstrates, the party possibilities are endless.

Jan. 1 Mummer’s the Word
Philadelphians have been doing this on New Year’s Day for more than a century, but it can be fun any time of year. First, rise before dawn to dress up in sequins and affix ostrich plumes to your head. Then join your fellow party-goers in front of your house and play the glockenspiel while sipping from a flask and strutting in circles until you fall over. Mumming goes best with such local delicacies as pepper pot soup and scrapple accompanied by mugs of Yuengling beer from America’s oldest brewery.

Jan. 6 By George, I Think She’s Got It

Nothing sounds so cultured as an English accent, which is why so many companies employ receptionists who sound as though they just stepped out of a box at Ascot. On the next Twelfth Night, host a British houseguest and invite your friends over to learn how to sound British. Before they leave, they will be saying sheh-jewl instead of sked-jewl, at university, and in hospital, responding to anything and everything as “brilliant!” and dropping the names of royals. Serve fino with almonds.

Jan. 22 The Mysterious East
In 1295, Marco Polo returned to Venice from China laden with exotic foods. Celebrate Polo’s adventures on Chinese New Year by serving such delicacies as plum wine, moo shu pork, chicken three ways, and other Chinese favorites, all payable with another of Polo’s discoveries, paper money. Originally hailed in Venice, Polo was later jailed for introducing a diabolical custom called tipping.

Feb. 15 Extra Virgin Day
Extend the Valentine’s Day celebration by visiting Napa Valley and enjoying the region’s second most popular liquid: olive oil. Explore new uses for the ancient ointment. Stay up late, wake up oily.

March 15 Sheets to the Wind
Roman dignitaries would have breathed easier if someone had invented the safety pin prior to 1857. Without it, Roman youths were able to make sport of their elders by treading on the tails of their garments, often with embarrassing and drafty results. Commemorate the safety pin’s contributions to civilization with an Ides of March orgy. Jet off to Rome with friends and rent the Baths of Caracalla. Serve iced oysters, peeled grapes, and limitless flagons of wine. Dress code: togas. Toga parties are also appropriate for celebrating the invention of the arch, the development of road building, and the creation of Caesar salad.

April 2 Envy Day
Celebrate the premiere of the Ben Stiller comedy Envy by sending cards with such heartwarming sentiments as: “You undeserving bastard. If there were any justice, I would have a Hatteras yacht/Gulfstream jet/priceless Renoir like yours.” If the recipients are any kind of sports, they will grant you use of their possessions for reasonable lengths of time. Afterward, entertain friends over off-vintage Cabernets at home, but not until you have tucked your own Ruf Porsche, collection of Jackson Pollocks, and Bell 430 helicopter away and out of sight.

May 1 Liquid Assets
Benefit a worthy cause this year by hosting a silent auction of rare vintage bottled waters hand-pumped from remote springs by French artisans. The event can coincide with the day when natives of Haute-Savoie in the Alps don colorful garb and celebrate the spring thaw with parades and dances. As always, some critics will complain that buyers do not acquire these waters to drink but rather to collect. Proponents of more common labels will argue that the $50,000-a-gallon price for a particular boutique water is a function of its rarity rather than its taste. Regardless, it is all for charity.

May 5 Think o’ the Mayo
To celebrate the joys of the highly underrated egg-based spread, visit the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan, where the humble yet ubiquitous condiment reaches its culinary zenith in the finger sandwiches served in the Astor Court every day at tea. The tea service is especially festive on the anniversary of the day when mayonnaise was first created in honor of the Duc de Richelieu’s 1756 conquest of Port Mahón in Minorca during the Seven Years’ War. Prior to this, the Duc was best known for hosting nude parties. Best to check with the hotel before planning an afternoon that commemorates both elements of the Duc’s life.

May 6 Freudian Slips
Celebrate Freud’s birthday with a party game sure to liven up any gathering. Invite a psychiatrist to mingle unannounced among your guests and diagnose apparent personality flaws, fixations, and phobias. These will then be summarized in a list that is handed out so that attendees can try to match the ailment with the guest. The evening should feature a tasting of top-shelf cognacs and pre-Castro Churchills to honor Freud, a devotee of fine tobacco who once opined, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

June 2 Prenup Piñatas
Why should brides-to-be always be the centers of attention? This prenuptial shower honors both men and women while the date—recalling the day three years ago when Marla Maples auctioned off the engagement ring that Donald Trump had slipped on her finger nine years earlier—acknowledges the realities of modern wedlock. After the reading of the prenup, the other guests can make suggestions for additional clauses and stipulations. And for an exciting touch, invite the bride to smack a piñata in the effigy of the groom’s attorney. When the guests of honor depart, set an over/under mark and invite those remaining to lay wagers on how long the union will last.

June 12–13 Vive la Différence
In June 1919, French racecar driver Jean-Pierre de Virages developed a mechanism to increase horsepower. He was cruelly dismissed, however, by French patent authorities, who thought he said turbot. “Who wants to attach a feesh to zee engine?” they snickered. Motorsports buffs salute his memory nonetheless each June while quaffing vintage Veuve Clicquot at the picnic grounds along the Mulsanne Straight during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

July 14 Specialties of the Day
An event widely celebrated throughout France took place in 1765, when a Parisian named Boulanger opened the first restaurant in the Rue du Louvre. Chez Boulanger was the first establishment to offer a range of dishes instead of one daily standard. Next Bastille Day, celebrate M. Boulanger’s legacy by joining friends in Paris at a Michelin three-star boîte. Acquaint yourself in advance with the French phrase for “Well then, who does serve this table?”

Aug. 19 Frosty Feathers
As summer begins to wane, commemorate Admiral Richard Byrd’s Antarctic explorations by observing Penguin Awareness Day. Party-goers can honor the explorer and the avian style-setters by donning tuxedos, breaking the ice over cocktails, and bobbing for herring.

Sept. 15 Avoid Clichés like the Plague
Reality TV. “You go, girl.” Supermodel. “Think outside?the box.” Rant. “Don’t go there.” Buff. E-anything. Weary of these banalities? Then summon your more discerning friends to the Algonquin in Manhattan, erstwhile haunt of such wits as Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, George S. Kaufman, and the other six members of the Round Table to knock back a dry martini or two in their memory. Benchley’s birthday is a good day to toast them, as is Parker’s (August 22) or Kaufman’s (November 16). Actually, it would be a shame to overlook any of the Round Table members’ birthdays and pass up an excuse to drink martinis at the Algonquin.

Sept. 23 In Vino Veritas
For the next autumn equinox, invite friends out for a rustic weekend at your vineyard in the country to acknowledge the blessings of harvest time. Before dinner, have your guests participate in a blind tasting of your latest vintage. Offer prizes for those who can distinguish your red from your white.

Oct. 7 No, Yo Ma
Yo-Yo Ma is not only the world’s premier cellist, he is a stylish host as well. Mark his birthday with a lawn party and a string quartet playing in the background. Instead of serving cocktails or wine, blend tomato aspic with vodka and chill in cubes to make the famed musician’s favorite treat: cello shots.

Oct. 25 Hard Hats Requested
In art circles, a popular setting for fund-raisers is so-called raw space, where a crude backdrop validates the party-goers status as avant-garde. In recent years, madcap art mavens have taken this a step further by descending unannounced with band and caterer on high-rises or bridges still under construction. Throw your own such party—with or without the art—on Picasso’s birthday, and while your guests nibble wasabi tuna canapés and sip champagne from Art Deco flutes, notice how the objections of the unwitting work crews merely add to the excitement. However, watch out for falling rivets.

Nov. 6–10 Beagles and Bugles
Don your oldest tweed hacking jacket and boots, then walk, run, or stumble through the mud and briars after a pack of dogs while blowing into a tin horn with no apparent effect. After several hours, you and your friends can return to the clubhouse for highballs of mediocre Scotch and a buffet of tepid chicken in a congealed white sauce. This is the essence of beagling, the favorite pastime of the landed gentry who gather this weekend in Aldie, Va., for the national championships.

Nov. 9 The Common Touch
In 1294, King Philip IV of France imposed Europe’s first sumptuary laws after seeing his bookie dressed in the same waistcoat as he was wearing. The idea caught on with other monarchs, and for centuries thereafter commoners were forbidden to wear clothes that looked fancy or expensive. The common greeting “You look terrible” was welcome, because one might be imprisoned for looking great. Relive those times by celebrating England’s Common Tuesday, the second Tuesday in November. The first guests to arrive at your party can be regaled with a repast of hearty gruel and flagons of mead, while latecomers will have to beg for food and drink from those who arrived early. Doublets, codpieces, and flaxen tunics are available from Ralph Lauren’s new Medieval collection.


Dec. 22 Buckingham Palace Is Already Taken
Why settle for a housewarming party when you can host a house-naming party to create a moniker that bespeaks the history and pedigree of your estate? Schedule it for the winter solstice, when ancient Saxons saluted Berthe, guardian of the hearth and Martha Stewart of her time. Ply your friends with mulled wine and hearken as their imaginations run wild. Will it be Ravenscliffe? Brigadoon? Mon Reve? The Tythings? Bananabread Farm? Once a decision has been made, be sure to give the postal carrier a little gift so he or she will remember that 3224 Elm St. is now Wyndeswepte.

Dec. 23 Silvia’s 60th
With Queen Silvia of Sweden about to turn 60, why not celebrate her birthday with her? Ask friends over for a smorgasbord of smoked fish. Vodka should be poured from a bottle of Absolut frozen in a block of ice. To lend a sense of authenticity and international solidarity, invite three or four au pairs named Inga. If anybody asks, it is just the custom.

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