The night before we say ‘never again!’

‘He’s a bit of a party animal,’ she said without considering what she had just said. After all do animal’s really party?

Well it appears that some, monkeys, dolphins and wallabies, to name but three, do. At least they get in the mood by getting drunk or high on natural substances. But what makes us want to party? We do love them. Any excuse for a party, a festival, a celebration, is pounced on.

In Denmark the month of May, for example, is riddled with reasons for flying the flag. Along with days and half days off to mark religious, political, historical moments, and the day when flowers double in price to thank mothers, the opportunities to put a smile on your face are rife. There are eleven days noted as a holiday from April to June, in reality two actual months, and then none until December 24. What they do to fill in the gap is to stick flags on buses to mark each royal birthday, and there are quite a few of those, 

so many in fact that it might be an idea to alternate the information about the route with the name of who, or what, we are celebrating.
Apart from significant date celebrations, we have parties to mark house warmings, wedding showers, stag dos, class reunions, election days, personal milestones, the Super Bowl, the Oscars, divorce, coming out, divorce and coming out, the list goes on and on. Even just a simple dinner party with the excuse of to be together, is reason enough.

Happy Hungover and Healthier

And here is the soundest reason. Research points to parties being good for your health. As the organizer, perhaps there is a temporary increase in your stress levels, but that is counterbalanced by training you to embrace stress and by the fact that the goodwill generated increases the diversity of your social network. There are indications that people with a broader base of friends have healthier hearts.

How many times have you woken up from a party and said ‘I can’t remember a thing’? Well conversely, actually the party has probably helped your memory. It creates a new one, revitalized the old as you recall stories from the past and refresh putting names to faces. The American Academy of Neurology even put a figure on it. They say that people who travel and are socially active are 55% less likely to develop symptoms such as dementia.

Then there is the laughter factor. There’s an old Yiddish saying that what soap is to the skin, laughter is to the soul. Laughter is a means of controlling pain; the endorphins produced by laughing enable us to endure more physical discomfort by increasing our threshold. A test at Oxford University showed that research team A, who had watched a serious documentary, were more susceptible to pain than team B, who had just watched a comedy. A good belly laugh actually tightens the stomach muscles. It’s an argument in favour of a pub visit in preference to the gym.

There are of course those that do little to improve the brain or body, the confusingly named Oktoberfest which happens in September, or the simply confusing Night of Krampus where a horned half-goat half demon whips children into being nice at Christmas. Both Germanic in origin there are also Dutch and French versions of the mad goat. Sleep easy on that one. There are festivals that are wasteful, La Tomatina in Valencia springs to mind as a ripe example. For 70 odd years, tomatoes have become weapons of fun in a Spanish village. It is a spectacular squandering of vitamin C that many a starving child might find hard to quantify.

The Big One

Then there is carnival – now that’s a party wherever it is held, but the four days in Rio are something else. It is a city that lives to party, even if the origins of the festivities are not as they might seem. Carnival was born out of Christianity and the season of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. If it were to be religiously applied, steak houses and burger joints would have to hang up their long-handled tongs. The term for the reason behind the colourful costumes and sounds comes from carnae levare, the removal of meat. The same calendar marking is called Fastelavn, Shrove Tuesday and Mardi Gras in other cultures, but it is the sheer enthusiasm injected into Carnival that has made it a collective noun for having a good time.

It was a total accident, because if you want to work in Rio don’t try during carnival. I mistimed my visit and witnessed it at Copacabana –the big show happens elsewhere and people pay a lot of money to get a good seat, but it is in the local neighbourhood blocos, that you get to touch on something that is rawer and more authentic. Standing in the warm rain at nine in the morning, the parade was due to move off along the promenade. A huge lorry with a trailer had enough loudspeakers to make the ground shake. The public were 20% on the sidewalk, 70% participants with the remainder seemingly on the bottom step of setting-up an international drinks organisation – an old luggage trolley, a flamingo insulated box and bag of ice into which you dump cases of Brahma and Antarctica.

Brazil is the third biggest consumer of beer in the world and that’s down in part to Carnival – one hundred million liters is drunk daily over the four day holiday. Perhaps that’s why after three and a half hours the parade had moved a staggering twenty-five meters.

It’s party, party, party – but with buried heritage and a serious purpose. For four hedonistic days you can hide your worries with costumes, blast your anxieties with sound and drown your reality in caipirinhas. Yes, forget the hangover show, parties are healthy. Flying down to Rio is good for your health, even if it bruises the wallet.