You have certainly heard, read or experienced yourself that if you want to call to have a party at 10, you better tell your Argentinian friends to come a few hours earlier. Although this might be true (here´s a former post on the subject), the worst cases are mostly due to the misuse of the word “fiesta”. Why is that?
Because, although no dictionary would hesitate in translating “party” as “fiesta”, there are certain things implied in “fiesta” that make it different from a “party”.
So lets say you want to plan something with your Argentinian friends on a Friday night, around 9 pm, but you would like to be done at 12 am. In this case, you should invite everyone to a “cena tranqui”. If it were a goodbye party, then it should be “una cena de despedida”. Of course, there should be food since no one would have had dinner by nine but it doesn´t have to be anything very elaborate: some empanadas or pizzas would make everyone happy.
If, instead, you would like to start a little later, sometime around 11 pm, with some drinks, snacks and chill music and you would like it to go on for a few hours then we are talking about a “reunión”. You could also call it a “previa” if the plan were to go to another place later, such as a disco, pub, etc.
Keep the word “fiesta” only for those nights you:
buy lots of drinks and no food; when you are planning to play music you can dance and you are ready to sacrifice your living room to the furious dancers from 12 am until the candles burn out.