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12 Christmas Party Ideas To Try In 2019

Miranda CraceDecember 10, 2019

It’s Christmastime and that often means festive parties and time with loved ones. With so many people bouncing from one holiday party to the next, it can be hard to figure out how to make yours standout.

Put on creative spin on this year’s gathering with these 12 festive Christmas party ideas:

1. White Elephant Gift Exchange

Friends and family gathered around a Christmas tree exchanging presents.

Don’t worry – no actual elephants are involved in a white elephant gift exchange. There’s no animals, just funny gifts and hopefully lots of laughter.

This is a gift exchange where guests can fight to leave with the best present of the night. How do you play? It’s pretty simple:

  • The party host will determine what kind of gifts guests who wish to participate should bring. Traditionally, white elephant gifts are funny or silly; however, they don’t have to be. In fact, having a few nice gifts in the mix is part of the fun!
  • Each guest brings their wrapped gift to the party.
  • Participants each draw a number. The number you get determines the picking order.
  • The first player selects a gift and opens it, making sure everyone can get a good look.
  • The next players go in order and can either choose to steal a gift that’s already been opened or take their chances on a gift that’s still wrapped.
  • After everyone has gone and all the gifts are opened, lucky player one gets to choose to keep their gift or swap with someone else.

The process is pretty straight forward but there are a few rules:

  • A gift can only be stolen once per turn. So if someone steals your gift, you can’t steal it back.
  • After three steals, the turn is over – otherwise this could go on all night.

A white elephant gift exchange is a fun Christmas party idea for any group that’s ready to laugh, according to Greg Jenkins from Bravo Productions, a southern California event planning company. “The game is typically conducted more for entertainment than an emphasis on the gift. The gifts can be usable; however, quite often gifts are typically silly in nature and the cost is nominal,” says Jenkins.

If you’re worried this game could turn your festive celebration sour, Jenkins offers a few tips: “Set a budget and have everyone stick to it. The gifts should not be more than $20 in value,” he says. “In addition, gauge your party guests before executing this exchange. You may find some people are fans and others will just opt out. Encourage your guests to bring usable items and they should avoid items that are easy to determine what the wrapped gift is.”

2. Christmas Cocktail Party

Eggnog in a cup.

Who doesn’t love a cup of holiday cheer at Christmas? And there’s no better way to sip than with a Christmas cocktail party!

Make sure you have drinks with popular seasonal flavors like:

  • Spiked eggnog
  • Spiked hot chocolate
  • Boozy fruitcake shots
  • Mulled wine
  • Champagne with frozen cranberries

A great bulk option is making a pitcher of a festive cocktail in advance. An easy one is a Cranberry Moscow Mule, you can even call it something Christmassy like Mistletoe Mule. For one pitcher, mix:

  • One part vodka
  • One part cranberry juice
  • Two parts ginger beer

You can add seasonal garnishes like rosemary sprigs with two or three cranberries skewered on the sprig or a cinnamon stick.

Don’t forget your guests who won’t be consuming alcohol. They’ll want fun drinks, too. You can make the same mule recipe minus the vodka and call it Round Yon Virgin.

Now that the main components (the drinks) are taken care of, think of ways to add a seasonal touch to the rest of the evening. Maybe you could have a fire going (even if it’s just on the TV), put on some Christmas music and let guests know that you’re providing the drinks, but they’re welcome to bring the treats.

Mom and child decorating cookies together.

This one is fun for the whole family! A Christmas cookie exchange is the perfect opportunity to share family recipes or try out a new festive baked good.

If you’re hosting the cookie exchange, you’ll want to make sure you have enough to-go containers for all of your guests. They’ll probably be wondering how many cookies to make for the exchange. A good rule of thumb is to ask them to bring enough cookies for each participant to take two. So, if you have 12 participants, the should each bring at least 24 cookies.

When guests arrive, display each batch of cookies on the counter or a table so that it’s easy for guests to go cookie to cookie and fill their to-go containers.

You may also want to have some snacks out. Sure, cookies are great, but you may need something other than sugar to sustain you.

If the baker is bringing other family members, especially kids, it’s fun to have something active for them to do during the exchange. Consider setting up a decorate-your-own cookie station. You can bake some sugar cookies in fun Christmas shapes like trees, gingerbread men and snowflakes, but leave them plain. This way, guests can frost and decorate them on their own.

If you’re attending a Christmas cookie exchange, but you’re not sure what kind of cookies to bring, consider some seasonal favorites like:

  • Snowballs (round walnut shortbread cookies covered in powdered sugar, so they look like snowballs)
  • Thumbprint cookies
  • Chocolate crinkle cookies
  • Chocolate peppermint cookies
  • Grinch Christmas cookies (green sugar cookies with a red heart sprinkle in the center)
  • Gingerbread cookies

4. Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

Group of coworkers dressed in

You know those sweaters with an applique reindeer or a sequin Santa? Now you have the perfect opportunity to wear it – an ugly Christmas sweater party!

How does this party work? You send out the invitations asking guests to come dressed in their favorite ugly Christmas sweater.

If you want to up the stakes, you can award prizes for the best sweaters. If you have a larger group, consider creating a few categories like Best Ugly Sweater, Most Creative, Best Sweater with Sparkle, Best Santa Sweater, Best Accessories. Prizes can be anything from a $5 gift card to an ugly sweater trophy that you award annually. Choose a gift that would mean the most to your group.

Max Falb, digital marketing specialist at Fueled, suggests make-your-own sweater parties. “Everyone brings in a knit sweater and then we supply tinsel, fabric, scissors, thread, yarn, fabric glue or tape, glitter, etc. Usually they turn out messy and the sweaters don't last longer than a day, but making them is so much fun,” says Falb.

5. Secret Santa Party

Friends exchanging Secret Santa gifts.

Secret Santas are a crowd favorite. Each guest draws the name of another participant and is tasked with buying that person a gift they’ll love. The catch is, the gifter is a secret until the actual gift exchange.

In order for this to work, you’ll need to have guests sign up in advance to participate. An easy sign-up tool is Elfster, it’s like Santa’s little digital helper. You create a gift exchange on your account and set a spending limit. Then, your party guests can sign up if they wish to participate. Make sure you set a cut-off date for the sign-ups. On that day, the Elfster system will randomly generate selections and email each gifter the name of the giftee they’re to buy for.

Elfster even lets each participant create a wishlist that their Secret Santa can see and shop from.

At the party, each Secret Santa gives their gift to their giftee. Guests love this party idea because they’re sure to leave with a gift that was picked out specifically for them.

6. Gingerbread House Competition

Woman making a gingerbread house at home with family.

Building a gingerbread house is a festive tradition dating back to the 18thcentury. You can put a modern spin on this holiday tradition by hosting a gingerbread house competition. Justynn Bauer and her husband Ryan, a Michigan couple, have been doing that for the last four years and it’s become a beloved event their friends look forward to each year.

“The idea of the party was to get together with friends and feel like we could act like kids again. Plus, you could never go wrong with a little competition,” says Bauer, “Essentially, each builder (which could be one individual, or a team) decorates one gingerbread house over a designated frame of time using a premade gingerbread house kit, frosting/icing, candies and other edible items of their choosing. At the end of the time frame the houses are numbered and each participant is given a voting sheet. Winners get a prize and bragging rights for a year.”

Bauer likes to assign a theme each year. Last year, everyone had to build Santa’s vacation retreat and this year participants are asked to use cereal as the main ingredient. “I’ve found that if you give someone a theme, they are more likely to be a bit more excited about the end result,” adds Bauer.

Getting ready for the party takes a bit of prep for the host and the attendees. Bauer supplies some of the basic candies and edible items for the group, but asks participants to bring their own kit and some items to share. A gingerbread house kit usually comes with all the panels for the houses, some premade icing and candies to decorate.

“I always put down dollar store plastic tablecloths for easy cleanup, and maybe some wrapping paper as a runner just to make things nice,” says Bauer. She also cuts up cardboard boxes from her work into bases for the houses and covers them with foil, “Most kits come with a base, but the cardboard is pretty thin, so this gives a little extra support.”

“The first year we tried to use icing to build the houses, but many collapsed. Since then we’ve just used hot glue to build the structures. If you want to use the icing for structure, you’re better off buying all the kits and building the houses a day or two in advance. They need to harden to be strong enough for the decorations,” advises Bauer.

After doing this for the last four years, Bauer has learned some helpful tips that even make cleanup a breeze. She says, “I scored some lunch trays the second year, and set those up at each seat to help corral small candies from rolling to the floor. This helps with cleanup in a huge way. And makes moving the houses easy for judging.”

That’s right, she said moving the houses for judging. Bauer has everyone move their house from their workspace to a table where everyone can see them. Then the houses are given a letter (A, B, C … etc.). Each participant gets a sheet with the column of letters and next to it they rank the houses in order of favorite (1, 2, 3 … etc.).

“For prizes, I look for a gingerbread ornament for Christmas trees, maybe some hot cocoa with a new mug, or something ‘house’ themed,” says Bauer. “One year I found candle holders that were white ceramic houses. I also throw in a baked goods coupon – something I’ve been giving out to friends, family and coworkers for a few years,”

Kids can be a little harder to find prizes for. Consider putting together a baking kit with some cake or brownie mix, cookie cutters and sprinkles for them to make with Mom or Dad.

If you’re attending a gingerbread house competition and are looking for some trimmings to take your house to the next level, Bauer recommends:

  • Straight skinny pretzels for log cabins
  • Candy rocks for stonework
  • Tootsie Rolls for stumps and firewood
  • Shredded wheat for roofs
  • Candy melts for scalloped roof
  • Twizzlers
  • Mini cookies and Teddy Grahams

7. Christmas Party Games (Adults Only)

Group of friends doing the Limbo with a holiday scarf at a holiday party.

These festive activities are only for the grown-ups. A night of Christmas party games is perfect for a holiday gathering with friends.

Consider putting a holiday twist on some of your favorite party games like:

    • Christmas Limbo: Like limbo but with Christmas music and a festive scarf or garland
    • Eggnog Pong: Just like beer pong but with cups of spiked eggnog
    • Hallmark Christmas Movie Drinking Game: You can see the full rules here. But just imagine taking a drink every time someone takes a sip of a festive drink …
    • Christmas Would You Rather: Would you rather drink only eggnog for a week or eat only Christmas cookies for a week?
    • Christmas Never Have I Ever: Never have I ever opened my presents before Christmas morning and rewrapped them so no one knew …
    • Elf On The Shelf Competition: Who can set up the Elf in the most precarious situation?
    • Christmas Charades: Guests write down three Christmas things or situations and participants pull them out of a hat and have to act them out without saying anything.
    • Christmas Scavenger Hunt: There’s one gift and the first person to follow the clues and finds it, wins!

8. Christmas Movie Marathon

Couple watching movies near their Christmas tree.

Beat the winter weather and stay in with your loved ones for a Christmas movie marathon! The best way to view is to watch three films from a specific holiday movie category or one from each for a well-rounded viewing experience.

Wondering where to start? Here are some of our favorites:

Christmas Classics

      • “It’s a Wonderful Life” (streaming on Amazon Prime or YouTube for $2.99)
      • “A Christmas Carol” with George C. Scott (streaming on Amazon Prime or YouTube for $3.99)
      • “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” (streaming on Amazon for $3.99 or for free with membership on the ABC app)

Modern Christmas Favorites

      • “The Santa Claus” (streaming for free with subscription on Disney+ or for $2.99 on Amazon Prime)
      • “Elf” (streaming on YouTube and Amazon Prime for $3.99 or on Philo for free with subscription)
      • “The Grinch” with Jimmy Carrey (streaming on Amazon Prime for $3.99 or for free with subscription on Netflix)

Christmas Love Stories

      • “A Christmas Prince” (streaming for free on Netflix with subscription)
      • “The Holiday Calendar” (streaming for free on Netflix with subscription)
      • “The Knight Before Christmas” (streaming for free on Netflix with subscription)

If you want to give your standard movie marathon snacks a festive flair, consider adding red and green sprinkles to your popcorn or swapping the soda out for a cup of hot chocolate.

9. DIY Christmas Ornament Party

DIY Christmas Ornaments: Children painting holiday ornaments.

Have you ever been to a paint-and-pour or a make-and-take party? Something where you spend time with friends making a craft and then you get to take it with you? That’s what a DIY Christmas ornament party is like. Guest will make their own Christmas ornament to take home and hang on their tree.

It’s the perfect party idea for a group of crafty friends or if there will be kids there. It’s a fun activity for the whole family!

If you’re hosting a DIY Christmas ornament party, you’ll want to have a few things prepped for guests:

      • Have enough ornaments for each guest to make one. Styrofoam balls, old ornaments, clear bulb ornaments or matte-colored ornaments work well.
      • Have enough trimmings for everyone to adorn their ornament. These could include things like:
        • Several colors of loose glitter
        • Fake snow
        • Ribbon
        • Metallic sharpies
        • Pom-poms
        • Paint pens
        • Washi tape
        • Sequins
      • Include tools that help adhere the trimmings to the new ornament. Think hot glue gun with glue sticks, multisurface glue and glue dots.
        • Display bulbs, trimmings and glue so that guests can see everything

Provide china boxes for guests to put their ornament in once they’re done decorating. This will help them store it for use in the future, too.

Crafting takes a lot out of you, so you’ll want plenty of drinks and snacks on hand. Keeping with the ornament theme, you can display cheese balls plated to look like ornaments. You can also have ornament-shaped Christmas cookies for something sweet. For the adults, fill a clean and clear shatter-proof ornament with wine and place the bulb in a wide-mouthed wine glass. They can pour the wine into the glass and enjoy. For the kids, put chocolate milk in a clean, shatter proof ornament with a candy cane and a straw.

10. Potluck With Christmas Party Food

Holiday table spread with holiday food.

You may have been to a Friendsgiving or some other sort of holiday potluck, but have you been to one with Christmas food? This Christmas party idea works great for hosts who may not have enough time to cook all the dishes for a group of friends.

You’re providing the venue – it’s OK to ask guests to bring a dish or treat to share. You can even make it more specifically themed. Janet Perry from Napa Needlepoint hosts a Christmas dessert and champagne party every year on the 12th day of Christmas. “We have it late enough in the evening that folks don't expect supper. Dessert makes it easier for folks who might not want to cook,” says Perry. “Giving people the champagne option means as hosts we don't need to stock tons of liquor and also makes it very easy for people to pick up something to bring on the way.”

If you want to host an actual dinner, you can provide one main dish and ask guests to bring sides. You can even ask them to sign up on a tool like Signup Genius, which lets guests enroll under specific categories, predetermined by the host, with the dish that they’re bringing. This way, you don’t end up with three different batches of holiday cookies.

Not sure what traditional Christmas food is? Here’s a list of the more common holiday dishes:

      • Ham
      • Pudding
      • Roasted root vegetables
      • Mashed potatoes and gravy
      • Duck
      • Gingerbread
      • Fruitcake

If none of those items seem appealing for a potluck, think about some of the things you enjoy on your family’s Christmas. For example, every Christmas morning, my family makes cinnamon rolls after we open gifts, and we have lasagna for dinner. On Christmas Eve we do appetizers like wings, bacon-wrapped chestnuts and crab cheese dip. Bring something that’s traditional for your family. The other guests will love to hear about your traditions and share some of their own.

11. Christmas Karaoke

Friends dancing and singing holiday karaoke.

If your guest list is ready to have some fun, look no further than Christmas karaoke! It’s the perfect party idea to get guests into the holiday spirit.

For this party, Ellen Harte from Tasty Catering suggests having a karaoke machine ready to go. If you don’t have one, you should be able to find one on Amazon or at a larger box store. Next, Harte recommends crating a signup sheet. Guests can sign up to sing their favorite holiday songs. Most importantly, the music! Tasty Catering put together a special Christmas karaoke playlists pecifically for holiday parties.

It might be a good idea to have some other activities for guests as well. “Incorporate some kind of musical competition into the evening as well, either in the form of music lyric competitions, Rock Band or Guitar Hero tournaments or another music-related competition,” suggests Harte. This will help keep guests entertained in times where there’s a karaoke lull.

“On each table, you can wrap small boxes (with or without presents inside) in sheet paper or on paper with Christmas-themed lyrics. Music notes and general holiday decor can also adorn the rest of your venue,” suggests Harte.

For food, keep it casual, something guests can walk around with. Consider appetizers and finger foods or a buffet setup that will keep guests moving.

12. Christmas Costume Party

Group of women in a group holiday costume.

Last, but not least, on the list is a Christmas costume party. Dressing up isn’t just for Halloween – get in on the fun for the winter holidays, too!

This one could just be a fun dress code for your guests, but it’s also a great opportunity for a little competition. Create several different categories like Most Creative, Most Festive, Best Individual Costume and Best Group Costume. Have participants line up and let the crowd’s applause determine the winner.

Get inexpensive gifts for the prizes like $10 gift cards to a local coffee shop, Christmas ornaments or a hot chocolate set with a little bottle of liquor to spike it for the adults.

Some unique costume ideas could include:

Individual Costumes

      • A reindeer
      • An elf
      • Toy soldier
      • Mrs. Claus
      • Santa Claus
      • A gift
      • Buddy from “Elf”
      • Jack Frost
      • A snowman
      • An angel
      • Elf on a Shelf
      • A Christmas tree

Group Costumes

      • The Grinch and Cindy Lou Who
      • Santa’s reindeer
      • Christmas carolers
      • Gingerbread people
      • Heat Miser and Snow Miser
      • String of Christmas lights
      • A snow flurry (several people dressed as a snowflake)
      • The ghosts from “A Christmas Carol”

Deck The Halls

You may know what kind of party you’re going to host, but do you know how you’re going to decorate?

Greenery garlands are an easy way to add a bit of holiday decor to any space. String them along the staircase or over a fireplace. You can even ask guests to bring an ornament that means something to them to hang on the garland.

Clear bowls and large glass hurricanes look great filled with glittery ornaments or pinecones and battery-operated fairy lights. You can also place Christmas-colored pillar candles in the hurricanes for more of a glow.

If the kids want to get in on the decorating, have them make snowflakes by folding white coffee filters into a triangle and cutting small shapes in them. When you unfold them, the results look like snowflakes, and no two are alike. You can tape them on the windows or layer them on a long table to create a runner.

Looking for new halls to deck this holiday season? Connect with a real estate agent today!

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    Miranda Crace

    The Rocket Homes blog is here to bring you all you need to know about buying, selling and making the most of your home. Whether you’re thinking about becoming a homeowner, selling your current home or looking to keep your place in tip-top shape, our writers and freelancers bring their experience and expertise to meet you right where you are.