Last year for Valentine’s Day, guests came to our house dressed as as history’s greatest lovers. My husband and I were Harold Godwinson and his handfast wife, Edith SwanNeck. Our daughter Bea came as Petrarch, Father of Humanism and victim of unrequited love. The guest list also included Sonny and Cher, Marge and Homer Simpson, Clark Kent and Lois Lane, The Little Red-headed Girl, and Narcissa, to name a few.
This year, the day of our Valentine’s Day party fell upon February 12th, so we decided–what the heck! We would celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, our favorite president. In the costume room we found top hats, stovepipe hats and a couple of wigs, which we cut into strips for beards. Decorating was easy; everything with a face, like the bust of Diana the moon goddess and our storyteller dolls, sported a beard and top hat. Lincoln Logs were the centerpiece, and we put 203 candles on the birthday cake (just kidding! We used numerals 2-0-3). We had rolls of Lincoln pennies for pitching or playing poker, a big portrait of Abe to play Pin the Wart on the President, and all the fixings to build pretzel log cabins. We never got to half that stuff, but we did get to hear a seven-year-old guest (Go, Sylvia!) read a moving excerpt from the Gettysburg Address.
This month, I’m booked for St. Patrick’s Day, but am planning ahead to next year, for my Ides of March party. If you’ve read Shakespeare, you know a soothsayer forewarned Julius Caesar about his assassination on March 15th, telling him to “Beware the Ides of March.” So we will have to commemorate the event, of course, with a toga party, B.Y.O.B. (bring your own bed sheet). We’ll eat Roman fare, and I am fortunate enough to have musician and storytelling friends who will tell stories (Roman myths) and sing for their supper. I might even rent a temple for the day. (It’s been known to happen.)
The calendar is full of odd and interesting holidays. International Talk Like A Pirate Day, Fruitcake Toss Day, Pi Day (on 3/14, of course). And one of these years I will celebrate National Barbie Day–come as you aren’t. Guests could dress each other up as Zombie Barbie, Office Slut Barbie, Star Trek Nerd Ken or maybe Trailer Trash Ken.
I try to do in my writing what I do with my parties—people them with quirky characters, and create an interesting backdrop. In The Keeper of the Crystal Spring, a historical novel co-written with my sister, the village of Enmore Green is populated with affable eccentrics like Edwin MoonCatcher, Agilbert PigWife, and Thurgood GiantKiller.
For deliciously quirky characters, read Jonathan Safran Foer. He deftly uses humor to tell serious stories, as in Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I also highly recommend the movies based on those novels.
And next October, go to someone else’s Halloween party, but the following week try hosting your own All Saint’s Day Bash. In your writing and in your life, if you have a choice, try taking the road less traveled. Befriend, rather than beware The Ides of March.
All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck.