Wednesday, June 29, 2011

THEME PARTY! Happy Dependence Day :)

Do you have any made-up holidays that you celebrate year after year? Kind of like "Festivus" on Seinfeld? I do!

The summer before my husband and I got married, we moved from Manhattan to West New York, New Jersey. It was literally across the river from NYC-if you hopped in a boat at about 79th street and rowed west you'd hit our building. Our new digs in the Garden State had many perks, including air conditioning and a swimming pool with a stunning view of the skyline.

New York City summers are notoriously brutal so we thought, by way of a housewarming,  we'd invite all of our city friends out for a BIG 4th of July party in beautiful New Jersey! We'd spend the afternoon barbecuing out on our patio, swimming and cooling off in our new place.  Sounds like the perfect way to spend the 4th, right?
The view from our street in New Jersey-photo via Wikipedia
The morning of the party we noticed that there seemed to be an awful lot of people on our street, which also overlooked the skyline. Every hour, there were more and more of them. By 3pm, when our guests were supposed to arrive, thousands of people clogged up the road and sidewalks. Seems they thought our street was the perfect spot from which to view the Manhattan fireworks show over the river. Except that they had the wrong river. The fireworks were on the East River and we were on the Hudson. We asked our new neighbors about it and they told us that yes, this happened every year. Every year, thousands of misguided gawkers made it impossible to traverse the streets of our little town. "We just don't ever leave the house on the 4th!" they said.

We tried to call our friends back in the city but they were long gone. When they finally arrived at our door at about 9pm, they were very grumpy, the food was cold and the pool was closed. The air conditioning was poor consolation for the six and a half hours they'd just spent in traffic. Oops. Let's just say it was a very long time before they accepted another invite from moi.

The next summer proved even more sweltering and I wanted so much to make up for the disaster of the "Fatal Fourth"-but what to do? Suddenly, I had a brainstorm! I sat down and drafted the following invitation:

Ever have days when you wish you could blame all of your problems on someone other than yourself?
File:Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
image via Wikipedia

You are invited to commemorate the last day in history when Americans could truly pass the buck. 
Come celebrate DEPENDENCE DAY with us this July THIRD!

And thus a tradition was born. Our friends delighted in coming out to celebrate Dependence Day year after year with a barbecue, a dip in the pool and games in our cool and spacious apartment. They'd come by right after work on the 3rd and get into the holiday spirit a day ahead of their fellow citizens.

At first our Dependence Day festivities bore little difference from a traditional 4th, but in the years since we've enjoyed adding more and more touches from the UK. Here's what you'll need to enjoy a Merry Old Dependence Day, indeed:

File:Queen Victoria by Bassano.jpg
photo via Wikipedia
Red, White and Blue tablecloths, plates, napkins, garland, etc. YES you can use the same decorations you would for the 4th, just steer clear of anything with stars. Add a few Union Jacks, a portrait of Queen Victoria and you're laughing! Don't you just love decorations that can do double duty? You can even keep them til the 14th and throw a Bastille Day bash!

File:Jaffa cake.png
You can even order Jaffa Cakes online! photo via Wikipedia
I am a gigante fan of British food and culture and am lucky enough to have somewhat ready access to it. If you don't live somewhere with a British expatriate community like we have here in San Diego, you can look up recipes on the internet or order your favorite UK treats online! The advent of the internet has made it easy to procure all kinds of British delicacies like Victoria Sponge, curries, Hobnobs and Fish & Chips. Our fave local pub, Shakespeare, has an online "corner store" with tons of edibles on offer. Click HERE to peruse their wares.

File:Bass logo.svg
The UK's Bass Brewery is only 1 year younger than the United States! image via Wikipedia
British ales, lagers and more are available at your local supermarket. When my husband and I visit Shakespeare Pub, I often order a "Black Velvet", which is Guinness floated over champagne. I find it super yummy and have heard that this is Bono's favorite drink, so it must be good, right?  My husband doesn't care for it, though, preferring a "Black and Tan", which is Guinness with Bass Pale Ale. Or you could skip the hooch all together and just serve tea!

File:Trivialpursuit Token.jpg
photo via Wikipedia
Soccer of course! Save the flag football for the 4th. Too rough? How about a sporting round of croquet, a la Alice in Wonderland? Or billiards? Or darts?  Or a good old PUB QUIZ? Challenge your friends to a game of Trivial Pursuit, inspired by the traditional pub quiz, and reward the winner with a pint!

OK, I'm going to try not to geek out too much here with my love for British music from the late 70s and early 80s. Must. Resist. Temptation. To suggest. Gary Numan! If you really need help, though, here's just a few Dependence Day-appropriate ditties:

-Fascination, The Human League
-Celtic Soul Brothers, Dexys Midnight Runners
-Dear Prudence (live at the Royal Albert Hall), Siouxsie and the Banshees
-Ace of Spades, Motorhead
-A Message to You Rudy, The Specials

And of course-

All that's left is to enjoy the party, clean up everything but the decorations and add the stars and stripes in the morning! Because we shouldn't have to depend on someone else in order to enjoy our independence, should we? Here's to a star-spangled, grand old, high-flying (In)Dependence Day weekend!

Wishing you love with extra cheese-
Nacho Mama

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