Today marks the bicentennial of the start of the War of 1812. Here are a few tips for throwing a 200th birthday party.
DON'T kidnap any sailors.
America had several reasons for going to war, including the Royal Navy’s habit of stopping American ships and kidnapping sailors to force them onto British crews. Most party planners agree: Kidnapping and forcibly enlisting guests rarely makes for a good icebreaker.
DO pace yourself.
Names and congressional declarations aside, not much actually happened during 1812.
Most of the fighting took place in 1813, the peace treaty was ratified in 1814, and the deciding battle was fought in 1815. Be prepared to stretch this commemoration out.
DON'T even think about looting the White House.
If the prospect of jail time doesn’t scare you, the threat of instant karma should. When the British plundered the president’s digs in 1814, they ended up with very little to show for it. The ship carrying the booty sank off the coast of Nova Scotia, depriving the Brits of their spoils.
DO launch bottle rockets.
Take some inspiration from "The Star-Spangled Banner” and add some red glare to your backyard festivities. If you’ve ever wondered what those rockets were that Francis Scott Key referenced, he was writing about Congreve rockets, a relatively new munition for the time. The Congreve was a giant iron bottle rocket mounted on a 15-foot-long bamboo pole. The rockets could fly for more than a mile and had huge destructive capability, but their inaccuracy really undercut their effectiveness.
DON'T forget to visit Brookeville, Maryland
After the British burned Washington, President James Madison needed a quiet place to hide out. On August 26, 1814, he slipped off to Brookeville, a tiny rural settlement 18 miles north of Washington, and briefly ran the country from there until the heat died down that evening. The town’s 140 residents still bill it as the “U.S. Capital for a Day,” so give it a salute.
This article originally appeared in mental_floss magazine. Get a free issue!