Most history classes leave out one of the best parts of the past: all the crazy parties. The biggest bashes in history included a punch bowl so huge that a boy rowed a boat in it and an ancient Egyptian tradition where everyone got black-out drunk on beer – and that's just the beginning when it comes to the best parties ever.
Some wild celebrations took a dark turn, like the French Bal des Ardents, during which the king narrowly avoided burning to death in the middle of a wedding. Others are just strange, like when Andrew Jackson invited 10,000 people to the White House to devour 1,400 pounds of cheese, which left behind an "evil-smelling horror." And then there was the banger at the Vatican with prizes for whoever got intimate with the most sex workers.
The biggest ragers of history boast more booze, debauchery, and in some cases, destruction, than even some of the wildest modern parties.
Pope Alexander VI's Soirée Had A Contest For Who Could Bed The Most Sex Workers
Alexander VI, the Borgia pope, held the craziest shindig in Vatican history back in 1501. It became known as the "Banquet of Chestnuts" for a particularly scandalous trick performed by the sex workers hired for the party. The pope's banquet featured a who's who of Roman nobility and Catholic Church officials, as well as Roman sex workers.
After an elaborate feast of meat and wine, 50 sex workers jumped on the table and performed a striptease. The pope then announced a new competition: the man who slept with the most of them during the party would win a prize, granted by the pope himself. There are no records of who won.
Times Square Became An Impromptu Party On V-J Day
When Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945, ending World War II, Times Square in New York City instantly became a crazy party. V-J Day brought thousands out to celebrate the end of years of war. The crowd was both exhilarated and relieved that the deadliest war in human history was finally over. According to a Time article published at the time, "Booze flowed; inhibitions were cast off; there were probably as many fists thrown as kisses planted."
The most famous image from the party, taken by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, shows a sailor kissing a nurse. Years later, the man in the photo confirmed that the nurse was a stranger, and he simply grabbed her and kissed her in celebration; the photo later spurred a controversy, as some viewed it as a form of sexual assault.
The Ancient Egyptians Held A Festival Of Drunkenness
Ancient Egyptians knew how to make beer – and they celebrated it annually in the Festival of Drunkenness. The event commemorated a moment in Egyptian mythology where mankind was saved from destruction because a murderous goddess, Hathor, got drunk and passed out. To celebrate, Egyptians lit torches, danced, and "traveled through the marshes," which historians speculate may refer to sex.
And, of course, it wouldn't be the Festival of Drunkenness without alcohol. Every year, the ancient Egyptians drank a ton of alcohol and passed out. Everyone – whether they were a peasant or part of the elite – participated in this ritual together.
A French Wedding Party Ended With King Charles VI Of France On Fire
In 1393, a royal party went so poorly that the king ended up on fire. The Bal des Ardents, also known as the "Ball of the Burning Men," wasn't exactly a costume party – it was a wedding for one of Queen Isabeau's ladies-in-waiting. But King Charles VI of France (also known as Charles the Mad) thought it would be hilarious to dress up like Bigfoot.
Along with five of his friends, Charles was sewn into a "wild man" costume. When the king's brother tried to get a closer look at the costume using a torch, the party turned deadly. The wild men burst into flames, including the king. One tried to save himself by jumping into a barrel of wine. The king hid under his aunt's skirts. Four of the six wild men burned to death in front of the horrified audience.