Another year over, another office Christmas function to organise. You dust off last year’s decorations, book the room, and you’re just about to call the caterer to order the same platters of finger sandwiches and sausage rolls you order every year … when you get a brainwave: why not do something a bit different for the team this year?
The office Christmas party is a way to thank staff for their awesome work throughout the year. You’re trying to make the whole team feel appreciated, and have a bit of fun at the same time. So put away the cringe-worthy banners and mini-trees, and try one of these new Christmas party ideas.
1. The Amazing Race Party
Inspired by the TV show, The Amazing Race is a Christmas party and team-building exercise rolled into one. Organise a scavenger hunt to different locations in your area - it’s great if you can rope clients and other stakeholders into hosting some of the stops. You can also throw some “roadblock” challenges in there; where participants aren’t allowed to move to the next stage until they’ve completed a specific task, such as achieving some sort of physical feat or eating something disgusting.
It’s good to get teams to collect a flag or stamp or some kind of object at each stop, or take a photograph of a specific scene - that way you can ensure they’ve actually been to every pit stop.
The last pitstop should be back at the party room, where a feast and some refreshing drinks await the weary travellers.
2. The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party
Image from Ugly Christmas Sweater Kit.
You know those horrid Christmas sweaters, featuring a felt Santa with a fluffy wool beard and reindeer with silver stitching around their antlers? I’m talking about the sweaters in horrible shades of green and brown and purple - the ones your Grandma buys you every year and you throw into the darkest depths of your closet as soon as Christmas is over. Well, dig out those beastly sweaters, because this year’s Christmas party theme is “embrace the ugliness.”
Everyone is instructed to find a Christmas sweater to wear to the party. Anyone who doesn’t show up with a sweater will be given one of the spare sweaters you have on hand, and a pair of reindeer ears or some other kind of embarrassing prop for good measure. Decorate the room with bright and fun decorations and offer a reward for the most impressive sweater.
Games: You Lie - Every person thinks up two facts about themselves, and one lie. You each take a turn to say your three statements out loud, and everyone tries to figure out what’s true and what is a lie. A great way to get to know your co-workers better and have a few laughs in the process.
3. A Christmas Masquerade Ball
Image from Luxe Victoria.
If your office is on the casual side, why not encourage everyone to come dressed to the nines for a masquerade ball? In the invite you could perhaps explain the history of masquerade balls and link to some tutorials on mask-making to get everyone thinking of ideas for their own.
For decorations, think harlequin patterns, theatre masks and anything decadent - a wintery wonderland theme could also work perfectly. Serve finger foods and funky cocktails, and keep the music pumping all night.
For those who haven’t come with a mask, or who want to give theirs a little extra pizzazz, set up a mask-making station with coloured card, string, felt pens, feathers, glitter and other decorations. In one corner of the room, create a photo booth area with a curtain backdrop and a box of props; mustaches, fairy wands, santa hats, feather boas and funny signs.
Masquerade balls are made for dancing, so be careful to choose a fantastic band who will get everyone up and on the floor. A prize for best-dressed and best-dancers is a must.
Games: Who Am I - A great icebreaker for a party when everyone’s in costume. Write the names of famous people on post-it notes. Stick one note on each person’s forehead. Everyone else can see the name on the note, except for the person who has it on their forehead. Guests then move around the room, and they’re only allowed to ask yes/no questions of their colleagues, in order to figure out who they are.
A variation of this game is “couples who am I” where you write down names of famous couples (“Romeo/Juliet” or “Cleopatra/Marc Antony”) and stick these on everyone’s foreheads. Guests then have to go around the room and try to find their partners.
4. Nightmare Before Christmas Party
If you didn’t already know, I’m a bit of a goth. So Nightmare Before Christmas is definitely my favourite 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.
5. Winter Wonderland Christmas Party
Image found on Pinterest.
Even for those of us who grew up in the Southern Hemisphere, there’s something magical about a white Christmas – where the whole world is covered in snow, and there is ice skating and hot chocolate and bright scarves and hats. Embrace the season with a Winter Wonderland theme. Decorate your party space to look like a wintery palace, with white draping, fairy lights, ice sculptures, glittering snowflakes, and cuddly polar bears.
For drinks, serve an icy vodka cocktail and some delicious, warming mulled wine. Food should be warm and funky - crudites, savory bites, coconut balls, baked Alaska and panna cotta.
A Winter Wonderland could be a particularly interesting theme if, like me, you live in the Southern Hemisphere and Christmas occurs over the height of summer. Have everyone dress in their winter best - scarves and hats and gloves essential. You could include a trip to an indoor ski slope or ice skating rink to amp up the wintery factor.
Games: Do you mean aside from a snowman-making competition and ice skating at your favorite local outdoor rink? Nothing will thaw out this crowd like a live band to dance the night away.
Another great idea is to add some casino tables, like roulette, poker, craps, and blackjack. Pit different departments against each other and offer drink tokens and other fun prizes.
6. Santa’s Workshop Christmas Party
Image from punchbowl.
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.
7. Candyland / Chocolate Factory Christmas Party
Image by Wowcdo.
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 die, and each time a double is rolled you swap over - this can work better for larger groups).
8. Christmas Around the World Christmas 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: Organise 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.
9. Christmas Murder Mystery Christmas Party
At a murder mystery party, members of the team are each given an identity at the beginning of the night. They are to play their “character” throughout the night. Someone at the party has been murdered, and the murderer is one of the people at the party. It’s up to you and your fellow guests to figure out who the murderer is, and the murderer has to try and evade suspicion.
It’s great to bring along some props and costumes to help everyone get into character.
You can find downloadable scripts for murder mystery evenings online. Here are a few for you to peruse:
- Night of Mystery
- The Santa Clause Holiday Murder Mystery
- Haley Productions - several murder mystery games to choose from.
- Play Dead - another collection of different murder mysteries.
A murder mystery party will work better in a smaller team (8-15 people), but some are designed for larger groups of 40+. You won’t need games for the evening, as the mystery serves as the entertainment.
10. Christmas Movie Marathon Party
Photo from theeightysixthfloor.com
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.
What is the theme of your office party this year? Is it time you embraced the weird and did something a little different?
BY STEFF GREEN
This article first appeared in Workflow Max.