A party is a gathering intended primarily for celebration and recreation. While having some things in common with religious and seasonal festivals, the term "party" usually denotes a smaller gathering for a personal, rather than cultural occasion, even when the occasion is simply that of enjoyment.
Reasons for parties, and the style in which they are held, are as diverse as the activities which people find enjoyable. Some are held to mark a particular joyous occasion, such as a birthday, wedding or coming of age. Such parties are usually associated with family and close friends. A holiday often provides the pretext for smaller parties as well as the broader festival activities.
Some parties, such as the traditional English tea party or the modern cocktail party, are social gatherings within a fairly formal, or at least stylized, atmosphere. At the other end of the spectrum are such events as the rave party, which are generally counter-cultural in nature and tend to challenge concepts of what is "proper."
Some varieties of party emphaize a particular form of entertainment, such as the bridge party, which is focused around the card game of bridge; or the costume party, an offshoot of the masquerade ball, where the costumes of the participants provide the theme for the event.
Parties provide numerous opportunities for social interaction of various kinds, depending on the participants and their understanding of the accepted behavior for a given occasion. As a result, they tend to reenforce cultural and counter-cultural standards, though sometimes this is simply by providing a semi-acceptable social context for violating some of those standards.
See also: party game