Get out your fanciest outfit, put your dancing shoes on, and get ready to party. Though people all over the world celebrate in different ways, we all love a good party now and then. Some parties celebrate traditions hundreds of years old, while others ring in new ones, they all have one thing in common: FUN. Here are 42 joyous facts about 42 of the greatest parties the world has ever seen.
Wild Parties Facts
42. Inaugural Ball
A US President’s inauguration is always a big deal, but when war hero Andrew Jackson celebrated in 1829, he opened the White House to the public. 21,000 people flocked into the manor and the grounds. The party grew so rowdy that Jackson had to escape by climbing out a window.
41. Stinky Soirée
Jackson didn’t lose his taste for public parties, and he opened the White House to the public on several other occasions. To celebrate “Cheese Day” in 1838, Jackson prepared by letting a two-ton wheel of cheddar ferment for a year preceding. The cheese could be smelled from half a mile away, but when Jackson’s party began, over 10,000 people turned up to help him eat the cheese—which they finished off in only two hours. Pfft, amateurs. I singlehandedly ate more cheese than that at the last Christmas party I went to.
40. Masked and Anonymous
Masquerade balls began in 15th century Italy as part of the celebration of Carnival. During the Renaissance, the parties took place as a way for the upper classes and aristocracy to celebrate before Lent. Guests dressed in elaborate costumes, often including masks to obscure their identities. The custom caught on in colonial America, and the association with Lent was lost. Masquerade is now a popular theme for any fancy soirée, and the balls appear in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Edgar Allen Poe’s Mask of the Red Death.
39. Dropping the Ball
For many in North America, New Year’s Eve is the number one party night of the year, and the epicenter is Times Square in New York City. The tradition began in 1904, and the first ball drop happened in 1907, over 100 years ago. These days, merrymakers begin flocking to the square at around 3 pm, though festivities kick off around 6pm. Revellers are entertained by performers that in past years have included Taylor Swift and Nick Jonas. Over 3,000 pounds of confetti fall as the 11,875 pound illuminated ball drops at midnight, ringing in the start of the new year. And when all is said and done, tens of thousands of revellers across the globe are left struggling to find a taxi to get home in.
38. Coming Out
For many young society girls, the first and most important party that they’ll attend is their debutante ball. Upon reaching maturity, girls would be presented as debutantes to signal to eligible bachelors and their families that they were ready to enter “polite” society as ladies—and therefore were ready to look for suitors or husbands. The practice has been discontinued in the UK, where it originated, but is still practiced in America, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, and some countries in Central America.
37. The Place to Debut
In America, girls between 16 and 18 may attend debutante balls—also called cotillions—where they don white ball gowns, are presented by their fathers, and then escorted by dates their own age. At the black-tie events, debutantes perform a traditional waltz to display themselves to attendees. The International Debutante Ball takes place every two years at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City and is considered the most prestigious debutante ball in the world—and the “ultimate networking event” for young ladies and their rich and powerful parents.
36. Happy New Year!
In Asia, the celebration of the Lunar New Year in February is the biggest holiday of the year. Families spend weeks cleaning and preparing their homes and visiting family, in celebration of a holiday that is all about historical tradition. Festivities occur all over Asia—in China, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia, to name a few, but also in cities with Asian populations worldwide, especially San Francisco and Sydney, Australia. Fireworks are a big part of Lunar New Year, as are parades of dragon dancers, lots of delicious traditional Chinese food and drink, and gifts of money or sweets in red envelopes as a sign of good luck for the coming year.
35. Because They Got High
A group of revellers won a Guinness World Record for Highest Dinner Party for dining at an altitude of 6,805 meters (22,326 feet) above sea level, on Lhakpa Ri mountain in Tibet in 2004. The partiers included intrepid adventurers from Australia and Britain, and even included a British butler. The group hauled tables, chairs, and silver cutlery up the mountain for a dinner party consisting of caviar, a main course of duck, wine, cheese, and a chocolate bombe for dessert. The meal was topped off by a birthday cake.
34. Party Barge
You might not expect a ballet premiere to be the most bangin’ of parties, but the premiere for Les Noces in 1923 was positively bumping. Americans George and Sara Murphy decided to throw a party on a barge in Paris’s Seine River to celebrate the opening of Igor Stravinsky’s latest ballet, complete with a guest list of Paris’s most celebrated avant-garde artists. Pablo Picasso fashioned toys that made up the centerpieces into a giant tower, topped with toy cars, dolls, clowns, and a cow atop a fireman’s ladder. Jean Cocteau wandered around dressed as the ship’s captain, warning guests (incorrectly) that the boat was sinking, while Stravinsky himself stole the show by jumping through a huge laurel wreath.
Sign up to our newsletter.
History’s most fascinating stories and darkest secrets, delivered to your inbox daily. Making distraction rewarding since 2017.
33. Black and White Opulence
Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs tore a page from Truman Capote’s book by throwing his own Black and White Ball in 1998 to celebrate his 29th birthday. The affair, which cost over $500,000 and took three entertainment firms to produce, brought together guests like Martha Stewart, Donald Trump, Elle MacPherson, Wyclef Jean, Derek Jeter, and funk legend George Clinton, in a ballroom bedecked with “P” and “D” monograms. Guests danced on a monogrammed, translucent dance floor lit from beneath or in Plexiglas go-go booths.
32. Join the Club
What's the single most important thing to keep on hand for a party? A few bottles of club soda. Not only is club soda an excellent stain-remover (should any clumsy guest spill red wine or salsa on the carpet, the couch, or themselves), it makes for a versatile drink option for non-alcohol-imbibing guests. Mixing club soda with cranberry juice and lime will delight sober guests, no matter if they’re pregnant, the designated driver, or simply choose to abstain. It’s also a great option to give kids when you don’t want them to get all sugared up on soda pop.
Like debutantes, girls in Latin America celebrate their blossoming womanhood at their quinceañera, when they turn 15. The practice varies from country to country, sometimes taking place in a group celebration à la a debutante ball, but sometimes being celebrated privately by a girl’s family and friends. Girls will dress in elaborate ball gowns—the fancier and poofier the better—and perform a dance, usually a waltz, salsa, or merengue. A girl might also ceremonially change her shoes from slippers to high heels, as a symbol of her transition from child to woman. The quinceañera is the most important birthday for a young girl in Latin America—similar to a Sweet Sixteen.
30. A Party for the Ages
In 1897, millionaire Bradley Martin and his wife Cornelia threw a bash that had been hyped in the New York Times for three weeks. Guests dressed lavishly as historical figures, from Pocahontas to Catherine the Great, though the hostess made sure her own dress made the biggest impression: her gown, in the style of Mary, Queen of Scots, cost $60,000, which was an awful lot in 1897. She decked out the Waldorf Astoria with canopies of orchids and roses, and hung pouches bursting with flowers from almost every available surface. The Times wrote a multi-column article with almost every detail in the party, which no doubt made anyone not invited drool with envy.
Not all of history’s greatest parties were exclusive affairs. In 1969, during the “Summer of Love” and at the height of the hippie movement, the Woodstock Music Festival drew 400,000 for “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music”. Folk and rock musicians like the Grateful Dead, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, The Who, and Jimi Hendrix dazzled festival-goers who celebrated the ideas of peace and love. The event was both a landmark for popular music, as well as for the counterculture movement of the 1960s.
28. The Bare Necessities
According to Lifehacker, any prospective party hosts should have some things on hand. A fully-stocked bar might be a lot to ask, but hosts should have drink options (coffee, tea, and perhaps a couple bottles of wine) on hand to offer their guests. Keeping your pantry stocked with dried pasta and prepared pasta sauce will allow for an impromptu dinner party, and tortilla chips and a jar of salsa will give your guests a nice snack to munch on.
27. Celebrating Peace
In Moscow, Russians celebrate the ending of the second Great War the way they knew best: with vodka. Radio Moscow announced the war’s end at 1:10AM, but Muscovites didn’t wait to begin their celebrations. They rushed into the streets, many still in their pajamas. When Stalin made a speech, 22 hours later, the city had sold out of liquor.
26. The Oriental Ball
Paris banker Alexis von Rosenberg, Baron de Redé knew how to throw a party. In 1969, his Oriental ball was attended by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Salvador Dali, Rudolph Nureyev, and Brigitte Bardot, amongst others. Life-sized papier-maché elephants greeted the 400 guests, dressed in elaborate costumes, who stayed and partied ‘til 5 am the next morning. The “Oriental” theme of the party—replete with acrobats dressed as Nubian slaves—would definitely be considered racist and unacceptable by today’s standards.
25. Le Bal Oriental
Von Rosenberg’s 1969 Oriental Ball was no doubt inspired by Venice’s Bal Oriental in 1951. 1,000 guests of host Carlos de Beistegui arrived via gondola in elaborate costumes from history, such as Louis XIV and Cleopatra. Guests included Salvador Dali and Christian Dior—who designed each others’ costumes—as well as Winston Churchill and Orson Welles. The party was so large and exuberant that the city of Venice practically shut down—the mayor of Venice himself lent gondolas to ferry the party guests. The celebration was thought of as a way for Venice to let off steam and celebrate after World War II.
24. Dirty 30
Studio 54 was the hottest club in New York in the 1970s, but one night stands above them all. Bianca Jagger, wife of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, celebrated her 30th birthday by riding around the club on a white horse, amid party-goers and (presumably) clouds of glitter and drugs. The party was thrown by Halston, a fashion designer who also designed the starlet’s dress for the evening, and Andy Warhol, David Bowie, and Liza Minnelli were also in attendance.
23. Birthday Bash
When Malcolm Forbes, the multimillionaire behind Forbes magazine, turned 70, he threw a party more than twice as lavish as Bianca Jagger’s 30th. He flew almost 1,000 friends to a palace in Tangier, Morocco for a three-day affair. Guests including Elizabeth Taylor, Henry Kissinger, Barbara Walters, and Walter Cronkite dined on piles of barbecued lamb, while entertained by belly-dancers and a fireworks display. I wonder what he did for his 80th?
22. Party with the People
If you want to party, you might want to book yourself a ticket to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil during Carnival. The celebration holds the Guinness World Record for the largest carnival in the world, with over two million people each day. Parades of samba schools (groups of neighbors that want to attend Carnival together), each with tens to hundreds to thousands of members, parade through the streets while dancing and wearing colorful costumes, followed by a parade of impressive floats and other spectacles. The party grew so large that in 1984, the government built a stadium specifically to house the festivities, called the Sambadrome.
21. Dîner en Blanc
In 1988, François Pasquier invited a group of friends to dine outdoors in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, with instructions to dress all in white so they could find each other. The party was such a success that it sparked a worldwide phenomenon. The tradition morphed into “Dîner en Blanc”, which now spans 70 countries across 6 continents. Each year, organizers invite revellers to a flash-mob style party, where guests bring their own tables, chairs, and food. Guests dress all in white and gather for parties which are just as much a spectacle for viewers as they are for party-goers. The 25th anniversary party for Dîner en Blanc in Paris attracted 15,000 people.
20. Rave Kids
Club kids from the ‘80s and ‘90s will remember going to raves…or maybe they won’t. The parties, which revolved around electronic and house music, often involved many, many drugs. Ravers danced in the dark with glow sticks, fluorescent wristbands, necklaces and clothing while wearing “phat” pants and fun fur in colors brighter than the light shows at the same parties. This wanton dancing (and occasional drug use) wasn’t terribly well-accepted—in the UK, where rave culture originated, the government tried to crack down on it by outlawing venues that played music “characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.” It wasn’t very effective—in the UK and in the US, many rave parties took place in warehouses or other illegal spaces that weren’t affected by nightclub laws, and didn’t obey the 2am closing time that licensed bars did.
19. Cool Britannia
When Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister of England in 1997, Britpop was at its height. Blair took advantage of the pop music movement and invited a mix of pop stars, socialites, writers, and other gadabouts to a party that became known as “Cool Britannia.” Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher was in attendance, as was fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, actress Helen Mirren, and actor Ralph Fiennes. Blair didn’t keep the legacy of “cool politician” for very long—after embroiling his country in the Iraq War, many of his famous former friends publically distanced themselves from him.
18. The Proust Ball
Baroness Marie-Hélène de Rothschild loved to throw parties, but she didn’t have much interest in the usual party tidings like flowers and candlesticks. Centerpieces at her Surrealist Balls in 1971 and 1972 were instead made of limbless dolls, and guests dined on pudding in the shape of a life-sized naked woman resting on a bed of roses. Invitations to her 1972 party were written backwards, so that guests had to read them in a mirror. Guests included Princess Grace of Monaco, Salvador Dali (of course), and Audrey Hepburn, who wore a rattan birdcage on her head, the door of which she had to open in order to eat.
Silicon Valley has a reputation for lavish parties thrown by tech startups that are often drowning in money from investors. Google is no exception: in 2006, their holiday bash, called “Googlympus,” featured five tents, each “hosted” by a different Greek god. Partygoers danced or lounged to the music of orchestras and jazz singers, while burlesque dancers and video screens entertained them. Also in attendance was a giant, inflatable whale.
16. Vegetable Party
Everyone knows a good party has good decorations, and Noche de Los Rábanos in Oaxaca, Mexico, is all about the decorations. At Noche de Los Rábanos, which translates to “Night of the Radishes”, festival attendees compete for prizes by crafting huge and elaborate sculptures out of carved radishes. Over 100 people enter the competition, and thousands come to view the creations. The festival happens on December 23rd, as a lead up to Christmas, and started in 1897—that’s almost 120 years of eating weird, 2-day-old radish sculptures along with Christmas dinner.
15. Expert Advice
The queen of etiquette and advice, Emily Post, was full of tips for party hosts. First, giving clear invitations, with the time, date, place, and a clear way to indicate “yes” or “no” will ensure that guests will arrive as expected, without confusion. Then, planning ahead to avoid stress and mishaps; creating a plan for the party with time for mingling, plus party games like charades to keep guests entertained and keep the party on track. Of course, there’s also being welcoming and attentive to guests while they’re there, and appreciative and gracious as they leave, ensuring that guests will want to come to your next party. Did she have a solution for those people that won’t take a hint and leave at the end?
14. Be Our Guest
There’s more to being a good party guest than just showing up. Emily Post recommends prospective party guests let their hosts know whether they’ll be attending or not, and to then show up on time. Participate willingly in any organized activities, offer to help with clean-up, and be sure to thank your host when you leave. And a follow-up “thank you” the next day by phone, email, or even text can ensure you’re invited back the next time your host throws a swinging soirée.
13. When Harry Met Vegas
Prince Harry might be settling down with Meghan Markle, but in 2012, the then 27-year-old playboy prince was single and ready to mingle. Prince Harry took a break from his military duties as a helicopter pilot with a trip to Vegas with his mates and some ladies in a £5,000-a-night VIP suite at the Encore Wynn Hotel. The night ended with Prince Harry in some hot water—after losing at “strip pool,” he found himself naked in front of 15 girls, one of whom had a cell phone camera. The photos were published by tabloid mags in the UK, which did some damage to the young Prince’s reputation.
12. Field of the Cloth of Gold
In 1520, King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France met to forge an alliance. The gathering was a bit over-the-top—the two rulers attempted to outdo each other with a 17-day extravaganza featuring fountains of wine, day-long feasts, jousting and archery contests, minstrel troupes, and a 12,000 square yard tent painted to look like a castle. Sadly, the meeting ended as many wine-fueled bashes do: in a fight. Two two monarchs engaged in a wrestling match, and when Francis I beat Henry VIII, Henry grew angry. England declared war on France only 5 years later. Talk about a sore loser.
11. Hottest Duds
Today’s celebs who want to show off their designer gowns and artistic taste hope for an invitation to the Met Gala. Hosted by Vogue magazine, and overseen by editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, the ball is a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute. The event is known as “fashion’s biggest night out,” a place to wear the daring-est dresses and most outlandish outfits, and to rub shoulders with stars like Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Celine Dion, not to mention the hottest supermodels and fashion designers. If you’re lacking that kind of star power, get ready to loosen those purse-strings: tickets for those not on the guest list cost $30,000 (though of course, that comes with a tax receipt).
10. The Vanderbilt Ball
In 1883, New York socialite Alva Vanderbilt did what New York socialites do best: threw an extravagant ball. But this was no ordinary gala: 1,200 of New York’s highest society attended the soirée in lavish costumes—one such guest, Ava’s sister-in-law Alice, wore a dress so radiant it literally glowed, thanks to battery-powered lights sew into the yellow satin. The ball solidified Alva’s place as queen of New York society, and helped her steal the figurative crown from Caroline Schermerhorn Ascot, her social rival.
9. Dare to Bare
It’s always party time in New Orleans, but Mardi Gras is something else entirely. Each year on “Fat Tuesday,” the day before Lent begins, revellers gather to indulge in rich food and plenty of alcohol for an all-day party in the streets. Think jazz music, plastic beads, drunken revelry, and public nudity. In recent years, Mardi Gras has grown famous for women baring their breasts, often in exchange for plastic beads or trinkets, but this practice isn’t at all recent: 1889, the Times-Democrat complained of the "degree of immodesty exhibited by nearly all female masqueraders seen on the streets."
8. Once in A Lifetime
Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history, is the only ruler to ever celebrate a Sapphire Jubilee, celebrating 65 years of her reign. In fact, the celebration was invented just for her. In 2017, her Sapphire Jubilee was marked by a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London, public celebrations, and special stamps and coins minted by the Royal Mint to commemorate the occasion. Sadly, though it was suggested, workers in Britain weren’t given the day off.
7. Bloomberg Ball
The London offices of media mogul Michael Bloomberg celebrated Christmas in 1997 with a legendary party. Over £1 million was spent on the celebration, which was dedicated to the seven deadly sins. A 25-foot-wide bed covered in purple satin decorated the “lust room”, while troughs of truffles and candy could be found in the “gluttony room”. Partygoers drifted between nine bars, manicure booths, a casino, a cabaret, and a sushi bar. I wonder if any of the revellers had any energy left for New Year’s eve the following week?
6. 1,002 Nights
Avant-garde fashion designer Paul Poiret’s 1911 soirée, which he called the “Thousand and Second Night,” commemorated his new clothing line inspired by the Far East. While still quite Victorian-looking, the line included harem pants and exotic fabrics, and dresses made to resemble minarets—or lampshades, depending on your angle. Poiret requested his patrons wear “Oriental” costumes, though any who disobeyed were given his designs to wear at the door. Once suitably attired, his guests strolled past a giant golden birdcage containing Poiret’s wife Denise and a choir singing Persian folk songs, into a garden filled with roaming monkeys and macaws.
5. Founding Fathers
Before the Revolutionary War, the Founding Fathers were pretty stoked to have drafted the Constitution of the United States of America. They wasted no time in celebrating—two days before the document was even signed, they gathered at a Philadelphia pub for an impromptu but now legendary evening of revelry. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison (plus 51 others) ran up a bar tab of “100 bottles of wine, 22 bottles of porter, 12 bottles of beer, eight bottles of whiskey, eight bottles of hard cider and seven bowls of spiked punch.”
4. Victory Day
For those old enough to remember, May 8, 1945 might have been the best party in history, when Germany surrendered to the Allied forces and ended World War II. In London, a city recently bombed during the Blitz, tens of thousands of joyous citizens took to the streets to celebrate the new era of peace. People danced the conga in the streets and planted kisses on hapless policemen to celebrate their new sense of freedom and relief from fear. Even Queen Elizabeth—not . queen yet—and her sister Princess Margaret snuck out to celebrate with the commoners.
3. Trick or Treat
Queen frontman Freddie Mercury was the King of Halloween in 1978. Nudity abounded, as girls clad in nothing but spray paint served champagne in a garden of “living” statues, also naked. Guests were entertained by roving fire-eaters, snake charmers, mud-wrestlers, Zulu dancers, ballerinas, and strippers. As stories go, the affair was fueled by plates of drugs strapped to the heads of little people.
2. When Partying Is Your Religion
The Romans didn’t invent parties, but they did take them up a notch. Secretive religious sects devoted to Bacchus—the god of wine, intoxication, and revelry—celebrated in days-long festivals called bacchanalia, wherein guests would engage in drunken orgies celebrating freedom and pleasure. According to Livy, the revelries grew so depraved, the government stepped in and executed 7,000 participants. However, historians tend to take all this with a grain of salt, as Livy was writing about 200 years after the fact.
1. Black and White
Truman Capote threw a legendary masquerade ball in 1966 and called it the Black and White Ball. To honor Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham, Capote rented the ballroom of the Plaza Hotel in New York City for an exclusive soirée attended by Frank Sinatra, Mia Farrow, Lauren Bacall, Henry Fonda, Candace Bergen, and Gloria Vanderbilt. The guest list was so swanky that Andy Warhol quipped to his date that “We’re the only nobodies here.” Guests dressed in their fanciest white or black ensemble, and all wore masks.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52