Open house (common school event)
An Open House is an event held at an institution where its doors are open to the general public to allow people to have a look around it in order to gain information on it. These are often held at schools and universities in most areas to attract prospective students, familiarise them (and their parents) with facilities, allow new students to become familiar with facilities and meet others, or to open informal communication channels between school staff and students and parents.
Open House as a "Party" in the USA
In some places in the United States, this term seems to have changed its meaning somewhat to become a kind of party usually held to celebrate the completion of high school or college by the graduate. Open houses are often seen as one of the last times a graduating senior will see their friends in such a large gathering and is often celebrated with much enthusiasm. Friends and family of the graduate are often in attendance to celebrate their graduate's accomplishment as well as a wishing them a bright future.
Open houses are also usually an opportunity for the graduate to receive some money for their further education. Guests traditionally bring small gifts or cards with money or checks, as a way of supporting the graduate's college tuition.
Locations (in the USA)
Contrary to its name, all open houses are not necessarily held at someone's home. Many are, of course, but others are held at various other locales: town halls, churches, parks, and so on. When an open house is held at a home, it is sometimes set up in a garage or on the deck with an area with chairs and tables. In fact this has even inspired people to build a new deck in anticipation of the big event.
Features of an Open House Party in the USA
As an open house is a time for celebrating one's completion of school in the United States, it is a festive occasion and is decorated as such. Typical decorations include balloons or streamers in the school colors (sometimes on cardboard road signs placed on the route to the open house, to assist out-of-town guests), as well as on the mailbox or on a tree of the actual location.
In America it also customary to decorate the venue with baby pictures, school achievements, awards, varsity jackets, etc. to show the story of the graduate's life up until the time of the open house, as well as the graduate's future plans.
Food of some form is usually served - some open houses offer only cake and ice cream, whereas others are fully catered. Typical foods include submarine sandwiches, chips, sodas (pop), and other "picnic" type foods. Some open houses may have a BBQ, and sometimes the food will reflect the ethnicity/background of the graduate.
There is also usually an area with tables and chairs set up for people to eat, drink, and socialise. There may also be an area for children, complete with games, footballs, and so on. Adults and teenagers may play social sports such as volleyball, basketball, or softball.
For examples of open houses as informative events, see the following: