People of the past didn't sit around looking bored and waiting for someone to invent the Wii. Don't be fooled by the stuffy portraits: old-timey folks still liked to party. It's just that their parties usually revolved around corpses and ferns and strange hermits. So if you want to accurately party like it's 1899, here are some themes to choose from:
6Victorians Held Mummy Defiling Parties
Today, having an "Egyptian-themed" party means extra eyeliner, "pyramid-shaped" tortilla chips, and a Bangles CD on repeat. In the Victorian era, party organizers took authenticity more seriously. It just wasn't a good time unless you and all of your guests unwrapped a real mummified corpse, freshly pilfered from Egyptian tombs. They called these events mummy unwrapping parties or "unrollings."
"And it's ... another corpse! Wow! What will the next one have inside?"
In the 19th century, Britain was going through an extreme Egyptomania phase, and mummies became just another souvenir for travelers to bring home. They brought back possibly cursed ancient corpses like you'd bring back an "I Got Lucky in Reno" T-shirt. Eventually demand became so high that the locals began mummifying criminals just to sell them off as Pharaoh's cousins twice removed. Hey, you try being six days deep into serious mummy withdrawals; you wouldn't be picky either.
The parties were pioneered by noted mummy enthusiast Thomas Pettigrew, a distinguished surgeon and antiquarian whose corpse-poking festivities were sold-out events. But while mummy unwrapping began as scientific in nature, like The Learning Channel, it soon devolved into an ungodly freakshow that spat down the throat of basic human decency. Also like The Learning Channel.
via Nassau Community College
They went from Reunification of Egypt's Middle Kingdom to Here Comes Honey Khufu.
It got so bad that guests would sometimes take devotional talismans, linens, or even bones home as party favors. Do you want the next six generations of your family to be cursed? Because that's how you get the next six generations of your family cursed.
5British Folks Died for Their Extreme Fern Collections
The wildest craze of the Victorian era led to crime sprees, illicit romances, and even one fight with an Apache tribe. That craze was ... fern collecting. Seriously. The British would organize into hunting packs and go on grand adventures solely to satisfy their passion for your neglected office plant.
While wearing what was then called "camping clothes."
It started when Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward invented a case that could keep exotic plants alive in foggy old England. Soon, his assistant was spreading rumors that fern collecting both showed intelligence and improved your, uh ... what's the delicate way to say this? Dick strength? Yeah, they believed that ferns improved your dick strength. There, surely nobody's sensibilities are offended by that phrasing.
Later, Ward's neighbor published A History of British Ferns, which further insisted that, among many other benefits, ferns could cure madness. Their proto-marketing scheme paid off, and ferns became a status symbol.
National Library of Australia
"Rosalind, what a fetching ensemble! I particularly enjoy the way your dress looks like fucking dirt."
Certain species of non-native ferns could fetch up to the Victorian equivalent of 1,000 pounds. But nothing compared with hunting down the wild fern yourself. Large parties were organized, and fern hunters competed to find the rarest specimen. Such a dangerous sport was naturally pursued by hardcore athletes willing to die for the ultimate rush: finding a goddamn fern somewhere. At least two people fell off cliffs while fern-collecting. Newlywed fern fanatics John and Sarah Lemmon allegedly fought off Apache Indians on their honeymoon, just to secure a rare type of fern. They fought Apaches for a plant. If we ever have children, we won't love them nearly as much as the British loved ferns.
via Shire Library
Wait, so it was basically like Pokemon? OK, we get it now.