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 didn’t become popular until the mid-twentieth century.
Birthday parties are 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 dedicated 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 party hats (colorful cone-shaped paper hats) at a birthday party.
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 honored person will suspect nothing.
Hors d’oeuvres served with cocktails during « cocktail hour » at a dinner party
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.