Refers to the destruction of several hundred chests of tea in Boston Harbor in December 1773. (Wikipedia link above has more info.) The term "tea party" was applied to the event only in the 1820s and 1830s; before that it was called "the destruction of the tea."
Interesting how a few decades' time can invest a violent mob action with the gentility of a bourgeois consumption ritual... innit?
And I miss the original Snapple labels, that had a nineteenth-century print of the Boston tea party on them.
It does! I had a long argument with a beau many years ago, that started with a remark about some cheeky, sorta-humorous posters all over London advertising an exhibit of medieval torture devices or something like that, at the Tower. I was saying I didn't find the posters amusing (I also don't find pirates amusing), and wished that people thought about history with a little more empathy, so they could realize that that stuff really isn't funny.
He argued that the distance of time made it okay for people to laugh. "In 500 years," he said (I'm paraphrasing from memory), "people will be making cheesy posters like that to attract tourists to Auschwitz."
Even an implied comparison between what happened at the two places is ridiculous, but... as I said, it was a long, and heated, argument.