(Because you can do (way) better than white elephant gifts and cookies in the break room.)
It’s that time of year again at the office! Holiday lights, pies in the break room, end of year excitement…and boring or played-out holiday events.
The holidays are a time when everyone feels festive, and offices often want to share in that feeling. And any holiday party should be a quality team bonding experience. But the result is often a waste-of-money gift swap or a bad cookie plate. The holidays should be relaxing and fun, even if we’re still at the office and not on vacation just yet.
So, how do you breathe some life into the stale office holiday party? Here are some holiday office party (and holiday treat) ideas for teams of every size and budget.
1. Nightmare Before Christmas
If you didn’t already know, I’m a bit of a goth. So Nightmare Before Christmas is definitely my favorite theme from this list. Give your Christmas party a Tim Burton flair and make use of all those leftover decorations from Halloween. Dress up the room with black and white tinsel, skulls and skeletons in santa hats, and decorate balloons to look like the iconic Jack Skellington.
Fill the playlist with songs from Tim Burton’s films, along with Halloween classics like ‘The Monster Mash’ and ‘Superstitious’ (a great way to banish the cheesy Christmas carols for the evening!) Food should be of the authentic English variety: roast meats, mini-Yorkshire puds, bangers and mash, custard … all the classic comfort foods.
Games: Buy a bunch of inexpensive Christmas baubles, glitter pens, paints, ribbons and other crafts, and get guests to decorate their own baubles. They could do a Nightmare Before Christmas theme, or whatever their heart desires. You could use the baubles to decorate the office tree, and then everyone could take theirs home for their own tree.
2. Santa’s Workshop Christmas Party
What’s Santa making in the North Pole? Why don’t you find out! Set up your party room to look like Santa’s workshop – a corner for Santa visits, piles of presents ready to go on the sleigh, and different workstations where busy elves have fun activities for guests to do.
Get someone in your office to wear a Santa suit – you can usually find some willing participant. Everyone can take turns getting their picture with Santa – as the night goes on, the pictures will no doubt get sillier and sillier. It can be fun to also supply a few props to make photographs even more interesting.
At each elf “workstation” include different activities that either test the guest’s creativity or team-building talents. Build bridges from popsicle sticks, create your own sushi, or paint each other’s faces. A “Santa’s Workshop” theme is also a great opportunity to get your team into helping out a worthy cause, by having them bring along food and supplies for charity hampers and helping to wrap presents.
Games: For a Santa’s Workshop, I love reviving classic children’s party games for adults, for example, pass the parcel.
You could also have a “hands-free” present wrapping competition. For this, everyone pairs up. One person puts her hands behind her back, and the other stands behind and places his hands through the gaps in her arms. As pairs, each team then tries to wrap a present, with the person in front bending and giving instructions to help the person in back, who can’t see what he’s doing. Hilarity guaranteed.
3. Christmas Around The World Party
Practically every country, every religion and every culture celebrates a festival around Christmas time, even if they don’t call it Christmas or associate it with the same sentiments. Why not celebrate these differences with your own Christmas Round the World party theme!
This is a particularly awesome theme idea if you have a multicultural office. Encourage people to dress in national or traditional costume, or to think about how their ancestors celebrated Christmas. Have a range of traditional foods from different cultures, and play a medley of Christmas and seasonal songs from around the globe.
Games: Christmas Quiz: Organize teams together, and get them to answer questions about different Christmas traditions and holiday trivia. Create rounds for different types of questions and at the end, the team who comes first gets a prize.
4. Christmas Movie Marathon
From The Santa Clause to A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life to Bad Santa,the holidays are rich with beautiful, heartwarming and hilarious films. A great inexpensive theme for an office party is to choose a few of your favourites and stage a little screening. Rent a projector, spread beanbags and comfy chairs around, and supply traditional movie snacks like popcorn, pizza and candy bars.
Bonus points if you can find an outdoor venue (which would be easier in the southern hemisphere, where it’s summer!) and set up an outdoor movie theater. Spread out your picnic blankets and enjoy movies under the stars.
Games: If your movie night needs livening up, add some Christmas drinking games. For example, you drink every time someone in a movie says “Christmas”. The movie night could end up VERY merry indeed.
5. Chocolate Factory Christmas Party
OK, so if the Nightmare Before Christmas theme doesn’t fly, then this is definitely my second favourite alternative office christmas party theme idea. Because who doesn’t love candy? Decorations should be candy-themed; lots of candy colours and stripes. Place candy-canes at every table and huge cut-out cupcakes along the walls.
Dinner food should be fun and funky – sushi is great. And for dessert, what better than a candy buffet or a decorate-your-own cupcake station?
Games: The Chocolate game: A favourite at kids parties around the world, this is a definite fun game for the office. Have everyone sit in a circle. In the centre of the circle place a hat, a scarf, a pair of gloves, a knife and fork, and a block of chocolate on a plate. Give one player a dice. Each person takes a turn to roll the dice.
Every time a six is rolled, the person who rolled it must rush into the centre of the circle, put on the hat, scarf and gloves, and then try to cut a square of chocolate from the block with the knife and fork, and eat it. If she does this, she wins and the game is over. While she’s struggling with the clothes, players keep rolling the die, and if another six is rolled, a new player rushes in to take over. There can be a mad scramble as the first player tries to get out of the clothes, and it’s quite hilarious.
(An alternative is to play with two dice, and each time a double is rolled you swap over – this can work better for larger groups).
Get creative and make your holiday party, event, or treat for your team better than last year’s. Your employees will feel appreciative and rewarded after a year of hard work.