Can't get to the islands for your birthday? No problem. Throw a Jamaican theme party instead! Not quite as good as the real thing, but after a few piña coladas you won't care.
Tropical decorating is all about warmth and color. Turquoise, fuchsia, bright green —imagine a fabulous piece of Jamaican fabric purchased at a Saturday morning market. The colors of the Jamaican flag are green and yellow. Think about adding those colors to your decorating scheme. Perhaps use a yellow or green fabric for your tablecloth.
And speaking of the table, your centerpiece could be as simple as an arrangement of golden pineapples, coconuts, or other whole fresh fruit.
Have plenty of colorful plastic cutlery and plates too.
Beg, borrow, or steal beach chairs and beach umbrellas in as many colors as you can find. Arrange them in conversational groupings with beach towels scattered about.
In the midst of each grouping, set a large aluminum or plastic tub filled with sand. Guests can smoosh their drink glasses into the sand for a communal coaster.
Decorate some of the beach umbrellas with a skirting of dried grass to turn them into makeshift tiki huts. Just attach a bunch of Hawaiian skirts around the umbrellas —cheap, fast, and easy).
You'll want to arrange lots of potted plants and flowers around your party space. A climbing pink or yellow hibiscus or bougainvillea would add a beautiful pop of color and if you can find a potted palm tree or two...perfect!
We all know that music sets the mood, so dig out all your old Bob Marley tunes and any other favorite reggae artists. Jimmy Cliff, Burning Spear, Peter Tosh, and Toots and the Maytals would be great additions to your party soundtrack.
Throw in some calypso while you're at it (yes, we know, not Jamaican, but we're gonna push the envelope a bit) —Mighty Sparrow's always good.
If you're having a big bash with bucks to spare, go all the way and hire a steel drum band. That'll keep your guests on the dance floor all night long!
Consider hiring a hairdresser to cornrow women's hair, a popular tourist activity in the islands.
Set up a necklace-making station to take the place of island folk selling their wares on the beach. Have guests create their own deliciously fragrant party favors using seeds, cinnamon sticks broken into two-inch pieces, whole nutmeg, allspice and cloves strung on beading wire (you can find it at your local craft store in the jewelry-making aisle).
You can't be in Jamaica without a great piña colada and rum punch! And yes, the little drink umbrellas are mandatory. Throw in some cases of Red Stripe beer to round out the alcohol selection. For a non-alcoholic alternative, try ginger beer.
If you're having an evening party and want to serve coffee, brew a pot of Jamaican Blue Mountain. It's sooo good.
There are loads of good recipes for these traditional Jamaican foods:
Round out the meal with fresh salad greens and an assortment of cut-up fresh fruit. Include pineapples, mangos, papayas, passion fruit, cantaloupe, coconuts, and bananas.