virtual Christmas get-together

9 COVID-Friendly Christmas Party Ideas For 2020

Molly GraceNovember 30, 2020

The holidays are going to look a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy them. After all, everyone can use a little bit of good cheer this Christmas season.

Remember, a party of two is still a party! This year, we’re advising you keep your Christmas parties to household members only – unless your party involves some completely outdoor, masked-up and socially distanced theme (sledding and snowman-building party, anyone?).

Though the more isn’t the merrier this year, take it as an opportunity to merry-make and spend quality time with the people you share a home with.

If you really want to gather a larger group of family and friends, consider setting up a virtual shindig. We promise, you can make virtual partying a blast if you do it right.

Whatever your plans, be sure to follow the guidelines set forth by your state and local governments. According to the CDC, even small gatherings have been an “important contributor” to the recent surge in COVID cases.

Check out the CDC website for more information on how to navigate the holidays as safely as possible.

Here are our top Christmas party ideas for those looking to celebrate the holiday safely (while also staving off that cabin fever that has no doubt settled in after so many months at home).

1. At-Home Christmas Party Food Ideas

Every good party needs some tasty nosh, even if it’s just going to be one or two of you doing the eating. The following suggestions can be enjoyed at home with your household or over Zoom with relatives and friends.

Christmas Party Food Ideas

The beauty of a small Christmas party is that you can do exactly what you want to do, and serve exactly the foods you like. Want a traditional Christmas banquet? Go for it.

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, think about what your own family’s traditional Christmas foods are and incorporate them into the menu. Consider the homemade cinnamon rolls you always woke up to on Christmas morning or your mom’s famous lasagna recipe she always breaks out for Christmas Eve.

Prefer something more unusual that the crowd at your annual family party would never go for? Live your surf and turf Christmas dinner dreams.

You can even pop in a frozen pizza or fry up a fancy grilled cheese if that’s more your speed – this page has some tasty inspiration if that’s something that interests you. (Grilled pimiento cheese and fried green tomato sandwich? Delish!)

Another idea: just because you aren’t sharing a meal with your loved ones in person doesn’t mean you can’t still share your meal with them. If they live nearby and you want to share your traditional Christmas feast with them, you might consider making up a few to-go plates and dropping them off on their doorstep.

Christmas Cookie Ideas

Cookies are one of the best parts of Christmas celebrations and are a perfect way to spread cheer among your friends and family even in these trying times.

Get your whole household in on the fun of preparing, cookie cutter-ing and baking big batches of cookies. Enjoy them yourselves and share the joy by mailing the cookies to your loved ones with thoughtful, hand-written notes.

(Not sure how to go about mailing baked goods? UPS has a good guide.)

In your own household, you might also 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, you all can frost and decorate them on your own.

Not sure what kinds of cookies to bake? Consider some seasonal favorites like:

  • Snowballs (round pecan 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
  • Peanut butter blossoms
  • Shortbread cookies
  • Snickerdoodles
  • Italian Christmas cookies

2. Christmas Cocktail Party

Share your favorite cocktail recipes with all the 21+ invitees on your Christmas Zoom call so you can all virtually toast together with delightful, holiday-themed drinks, such as:

  • Spiked eggnog (or an eggnog martini with vanilla vodka and amaretto)
  • Spiked hot chocolate
  • Boozy fruitcake shots
  • Mulled wine
  • Champagne with frozen cranberries
  • Santa Clausmopolitans (basically a regular cosmopolitan with sugar lining the rim of the glass)

One of our favorites is the 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 drink? You can make the same mule recipe minus the vodka and call it Round Yon Virgin.

3. Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

This is a great one if you’re having a virtual party. You know those sweaters with an applique reindeer or a sequin Santa? Encourage all your online attendees to show off their tackiest winterwear.

Each person in the video call can take their turn showing off their take on the ugly Christmas sweater theme and you can all vote on whose sweater is the ugliest.

Other Christmas Party Outfit Ideas

Don’t have an ugly Christmas sweater? No sweat – you can still be super on-theme with your party attire. How about a Christmas-themed tie, dress or even Christmas-colored stockings? Santa hats are also in abundance at stores this time of year (plus, they keep your head really warm).

Want something a little subtler? Try Christmas tree earrings or a string light-inspired necklace.

4. Christmas Costume Party

Though it can still be a fun theme, we understand if you think the whole “ugly Christmas sweater” thing is a little overdone at this point. However, if you still like the idea of themed clothing as a way to get everyone at your virtually party engaged even when you aren’t in the same room as each other, why not have a costume party?

Here are some of our favorite costume ideas:

Individual Costumes

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

Group Or Family 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”

If you’re having a household-only party, dressing up in costumes might seem a little silly, but consider this: it’s a really great opportunity to have a hilarious photoshoot.

5. Secret Santa Party

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 your household members 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, everyone 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 wish list that their Secret Santa can see and shop from.

You can even host a gift exchange at your virtual party, with a few tweaks. Have everybody mail their gifts ahead of time and instruct everyone to hold off on opening anything until the day of your Zoom or Skype party. Then you can all take turns during the video call opening your presents.

Speaking of gifts, just because it’s a virtual party doesn’t mean you can’t get a little host gift for the person who put it all together.

6. Gingerbread House Competition

Building a gingerbread house is a festive tradition dating back to the 18th century. You can put a modern spin on this holiday tradition by hosting a gingerbread house competition.

Gingerbread house kits can be bought cheaply at most big-box stores or grocery stores. They typically come with a small assortment of basic candy to embellish your home with, but you can also supplement your own candy or other snack food to really allow the creativity to flow.

Hold the competition during your at-home party, or bring other friends and relatives into the fun using social media.

Invite your loved ones to purchase their own kits and create the best gingerbread home that they can. Then, create a unique hashtag (ex. #JonesesGingerbreadHouseCompetition) and have everyone who wants to participate use the hashtag when they upload pics of their own architectural masterpieces.

Everyone votes with their likes. Winner gets an e-gift card.

7. Christmas Party Games (Adults Only)

These festive activities are only for the grown-ups. Some of them are great for small groups – including you and everyone in your household – while others can also be played virtually with a big group.

  • 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!

The company Jackbox Games also makes a ton of games that are perfect for a virtual group. It works like this: one person purchases the game on their computer and uses the “Share Screen” feature on Zoom so that everybody can see the game window. Then, all of the participants use their smartphones to play. It’s super easy and tons of fun.

8. Christmas Movie Marathons

What better way to celebrate a holiday season where we all have to stay in than to have a night where you just settle in and have a chill movie marathon?

Cuddle up with your housemates or have a virtual viewing using the Google Chrome extension Teleparty (formerly known as Netflix Party), which allows you to watch Netflix, Disney, Hulu or HBO in sync with your friends.

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

Christmas Classics

  • “It’s a Wonderful Life” (stream on Amazon Prime or YouTube for $2.99)
  • “A Christmas Carol” with George C. Scott (rent on Amazon Prime for $3.99)
  • “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (purchase on iTunes for $9.99)
  • “White Christmas” (stream on Netflix or rent on Amazon Prime for $2.99)
  • “Miracle on 34th Street” (stream on Disney+ or rent on Amazon Prime for $3.99)

Modern Christmas Favorites

  • “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” (stream on Netflix)
  • “The Santa Clause” (stream on Disney+ or rent on Amazon Prime for $3.99)
  • “Elf” (rent on Amazon Prime for $3.99)
  • “Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas” with Jim Carrey (steam on Netflix or rent on Amazon Prime for $3.99)
  • “Christmas with the Kranks” (rent on Amazon Prime for $2.99)
  • “Die Hard” (yes, it’s a Christmas movie – stream on HBO Max or rent on Amazon Prime for $3.99)
  • “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (rent on Amazon Prime for $2.99)

Christmas Love Stories

  • “The Princess Switch” (stream on Netflix)
  • “Love Actually” (rent on Amazon Prime for $3.99)
  • “The Holiday” (rent on Amazon Prime for $2.99)
  • “The Family Stone” (stream on HBO Max or rent on Amazon Prime for $3.99)

Pop some popcorn, heat up a nice mug of hot chocolate and cozy up to any of these great holiday movies. Bonus points if you and your fam/roomies have adorable matching Christmas jammies.

9. DIY Christmas Ornament Party

If you and your roomies are pretty crafty or if you’ve got kids in your household, having a make-your-own ornament party is a fun and meaningful way to spend this holiday.

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

  • Styrofoam balls, old ornaments, clear bulb ornaments or matte-colored ornaments.
  • 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
  • Tools that help adhere the trimmings to the new ornament. Think hot glue gun with glue sticks, multisurface glue and glue dots.

Once you’re done, you can all display your beautiful creations on your Christmas tree.

For those hosting their party over Zoom, this project can also be done virtually, provided that everyone is able to go out and purchase their own supplies. To make it extra special, when you’re finished you can each mail your ornament to one of the other party attendees, so that everyone can have a piece of one of their loved ones hanging from their tree.

Deck The Halls

Be sure to check out the latest holiday decor trends as well, even if you’re just sprucing up the background of your video chats.

The great thing about Christmas (and all of the winter holidays) is that it takes one of the dreariest, chilliest times of the year and gives us a reason to find joy in our friends and family. Even though this holiday season may seem drearier than most, it’s still possible to feel the holiday spirit and enjoy the time we get to spend with our loved ones – even if it’s only through a screen.

Looking for new halls to deck this holiday season? Check out our tips on home buying on the Rocket HomesSM blog.

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    Molly Grace

    Molly Grace is a staff writer focusing on mortgages, personal finance and homeownership. She has a B.A. in journalism from Indiana University. You can follow her on Twitter @themollygrace.