A party is a gathering of people who have been invited by a host for the purposes of socializing, conversation, recreation, or as part of a festival or other commemoration of a special occasion. A party will typically feature food and beverages, and often music and dancing or other forms of entertainment. In many Western countries, parties for teens and adults are associated with drinking alcohol such as beer, wine, or distilled spirits.
Some parties are held in honor of a specific person, day, or event, such as a birthday party, a Super Bowl party, or a St. Patrick’s Day party. Parties of this kind are often called celebrations. A party is not necessarily a private occasion. Public parties are sometimes held in restaurants, pubs, beer gardens, nightclubs or bars, and people attending such parties may be charged an admission fee by the host. Large parties in public streets may celebrate events such as Mardi Gras or the signing of a peace treaty ending a long war.
Types of parties
A birthday party is a celebration of the anniversary of the birth of the person who is being honored. The tradition started in the mid-nineteenth century but did not become popular until the mid-twentieth century. Birthday parties are now a feature of many cultures.
In Western cultures, birthday parties include a number of common rituals. The guests may be asked to bring a gift for the honored person. Party locations are often decorated with colorful decorations, such as balloons and streamers. A birthday cake is usually served with lit candles that are to be blown out after a "birthday wish" has been made. The person being honored will be given the first piece of cake. While the birthday cake is being brought to the table, the song "Happy Birthday to You" or some other birthday song is sung by the guests.
At parties for children, time is often taken for the "gift opening" wherein the individual whose birthday is celebrated opens each of the gifts brought. It is also common at children's parties for the host to give parting gifts to the attendees in the form of "goodie bags". Children and even adults sometimes wear colorful cone-shaped party hats.
Birthday parties are often larger and more extravagant if they celebrate someone who has reached what is regarded in the culture as a milestone age, such as transition from childhood to adulthood. Examples of traditional coming of age celebrations include the North American sweet sixteen party and the Latin American quinceañera.
A surprise party is a party that is not made known beforehand to the person in whose honor it is being held.
Birthday surprise parties are the most common kind of surprise party. At most such parties, the guests will arrive an hour or so before the honored person arrives. Often, a friend in on the surprise will lead the honored person to the location of the party without letting on anything.
The guests might even conceal themselves from view, and when the honored person enters the room, they leap from hiding and all shout, "Surprise!" For some surprise birthday parties, it is considered to be a good tactic to shock the honored person. Streamers, silly string, and balloons may be used for this purpose. Evidence of a party, such as decorations and balloons, are not made visible from the exterior of the home, so that the person honored will suspect nothing.
A dinner party is a social gathering at which people eat dinner together, usually in the host's home. At the most formal dinner parties, the dinner is served on a dining table with place settings. Dinner parties are often preceded by a cocktail hour in a living room or bar, where guests drink cocktails while mingling and conversing. Wine is usually served throughout the meal, often with a different wine accompanying each course.
At less formal dinner parties, a buffet is provided. Guests choose food from the buffet and eat while standing up and conversing. Women guests may wear cocktail dresses; men may wear blazers.
At some informal dinner parties, the host may ask guests to bring food or beverages (a main dish, a side dish, a dessert, or appetizers). A party of this type is called a potluck or potluck dinner. In the United States, potlucks are very often held in churches and community centers.
A garden party is a party in a park or a garden. An event described as a garden party is usually more formal than other outdoor gatherings, which may be called simply parties, picnics, barbecues, etc. A garden party can be a prestigious event. For example, invitations by the British Sovereign to garden parties at Buckingham Palace are considered an honor.
A cocktail party is a party at which cocktails are served. It is sometimes called a "cocktail reception". Women who attend a cocktail party may wear a cocktail dress. A cocktail hat is sometimes worn as a fashion statement.
In Anglo-American culture, a tea party is a formal gathering for afternoon tea. These parties were traditionally attended only by women, but men may also be invited. Tea parties are often characterized by the use of prestigious tableware, such as bone china and silver. The table, whatever its size or cost, is made to look its prettiest, with cloth napkins and matching cups and plates.
In addition to tea, larger parties may serve punch or, in cold weather, hot chocolate. The tea is accompanied by a variety of easily managed foods. Thin sandwiches such as cucumber or tomato, bananas, cake slices, buns, and cookies are all common choices.