14 Christmas Games to Get Everyone Into the Holiday Spirit
Cookie swaps, secret Santa gift exchanges, and ugly sweater parties are all wonderful ways to celebrate—and with the holiday season in full-swing, its time to plan your annual Christmas party. Whether you're hosting the whole neighborhood or simply enjoying a quiet Christmas Eve with the kids, a rousing game is something that will spark joy, make memories, and keep the holiday magic present in your home.
Here, we share some of our favorite Christmas games, all of which are bound to make sure you and your fellow players have a jolly good time: Try your hand at Hallmark movie bingo or gather 'round for a chorus of "name that Christmas carol." It's a good opportunity to learn a new game that you may have never played before, like the traditional German board game of "Mensch ärgere dich nicht." (After all, a new tradition is just as fun old ones.)
If you're feeling inspired, why not give a favorite game your own holiday spin? Classics such as trivia, charades, and mystery guess are great fodder for a holiday theme. One idea? Your party piñata can take the shape of a larger-than-life Christmas cracker. And another? In Pin the Tail on the Donkey, the donkey is easily swapped for a snowman's buttons. Head to your local arts and crafts shop for supplies to help make an idea of your own. If you do, it's wonderfully in keeping with the season to share your ideas with other families for the holidays. While these games may bring part of the fun, it's you and your guests of all ages who truly bring home the Christmas magic.
Advent Calendar Bowling
Knock 'em down in this classic game with a holiday twist: Instead of typical pins, try to knock down 24 glittered paper cones crafted to look like Christmas trees. (Do this with a shatterproof ornament as the ball.) This is a game where everybody wins: Tuck a few surprise gifts underneath each cone and the player that knocks it down, wins the contents—fun for kids and adults alike.
Gift-Wrap Relay Race
Wrapping, ribbons, and toppers galore—it's all part of the countdown to Christmas. For a high-energy game, divide players into two teams and give them each a small gift. Their "gift-wrapping station" should be stocked with sheets of paper, tape, and strands of tinsel, all on a table between both participants. As soon as the game starts, a participant from each of the team has to run to the gift wrap station, unwrap the gift, wrap it up again, and run back to label another member from her team. The group whose all members wrap the gift before the others, wins! (Tip: Award points for speed or creativity.)
Reindeer Ring Toss
Here's a great idea to occupy younger guests whether the setup is arranged in the backyard or off to the side in a family room. Position a reindeer statue at a short distance and each player takes a turn in trying to hook golden rings onto its antlers. Corral the players, brief them on the rules of the game. Then it's—ready, set, run like Rudolph!
What's in the Stocking?
There are surprises to be had beyond the ones on Christmas morning. Fill a stocking with ball ornaments, bells, toys, candies, and other trinkets. Have the players sit in a circle. The first person takes the stocking in her hands, touching the unwrapped gifts from outside the stocking, and guesses what they could be, writing them down on paper. Allot two to three minutes per person. Then, she passes the stocking to the person next to her and he repeats the same process. The game continues until the last person has made her best guess. Collect the notes from each player. Untie the stocking's ribbon and reveal the gifts, one by one, and show your guests. The person who guesses correctly is the winner of the game (and the recipient of a prize—the stocking's hidden treasures).
Build a Snowman
It's like "pin the tail on the donkey" but our version involves a more dapper looking fellow. One at a time, each player is blindfolded and handed a different facial feature—a corncob pipe, a button nose, or two eyes made out of coal—before being spun in place until she is disoriented and must make her best guess of where the item should be placed on the snowman. Whoever does this correctly, wins. This can be done outdoors on a snow day (weather permitting) or indoors (by placing felt Velcro pieces onto a white fabric snowman wall hanging). It's a game commonly played by groups of children, but guests of all ages can join in the fun.
Gingerbread House Bake-Off
Bake and decorate your way to a sweet ending that everyone can enjoy for dessert. Ahead of the party, bake several sheets of gingerbread for the base "house" structure. When everyone is ready to play, divvy up your guests into small teams of two or three and present each team with candy, icing, nonpareils, edible glitter and their own plain gingerbread house. On your cue, participants will have 10 minutes to decorate their masterpiece. One creative, craft-minded team is crowned "Best in Show." If you'd like inspiration, just behold our gingerbread Downton Abbey.
Christmas Carol Charades
"Deck the Halls", "Santa Baby", "The Christmas Song"—you know them all, right? Encourage participants to jot down some popular Christmas carols on pieces of paper, collect them folded, and put them in a bowl. Divide your guests into two equal teams. The first person from one team comes up and picks a paper. She needs to communicate the carol to her teammates by acting out each word or phrase in order, followed by the whole phrase together, while the rest of the group makes their guesses. Allot time for each participant. If her team guesses the carol right within the prescribed time, the team gets a point. Then, the entire group sings the carol together. (And in the spirit of giving, feel free to gift your guests with copies of this songbook as a little extra holiday surprise.)
Holiday Movie Bingo
If your family loves Hallmark, then this game is bound to stoke the competition. Grab some small little prizes (or craft your own) to reward the winners. If the guest list is exclusively adults, consider a punch bowl of eggnog or themed appetizers to pair with the viewing. Check your local listings for air times.
This is a fun and simple game that the kids will rally around. Collect some shatterproof figurines including plastic Christmas ornaments, balls, and toys plus a hanging basket. Ask participants to stand in a line and place taped markers on the floor, maintaining a few feet of distance from the basket. Players will partner up and try to hike their chosen object—like a football—into the partner's basket. See who can catch the most in one minute, and winner takes all.
Christmas Scavenger Hunt
This Christmas, it's time for a new tradition: take your family and friends on a holiday scavenger hunt using themed clues ("On Christmas, you'll hear the bells galore! The next clue you find will be stuck to your front door..."), leading everyone to a big surprise. While this is a perfect game to play on Christmas Eve before turning in for the night, but it's also perfect for parties large and small.
Pass the Bow
Ribbon bows—tied up prettily in any number of ways—are among the classic trimmings of Christmas. Divide all participants equally into teams of five to ten, lined up side by side sitting or standing next to each other. On the table before them, ten Christmas bows are placed at one end of each line. At the other end, a basket is kept for collecting them.
Ask each player to hold the right wrist of the player directly to their right (this is done with their left hand). At your cue, the teams must pass the bows—through the loop of arms—from one end of the line to the other end. Once all of the bows are passed to the other side, the teams must start again to pass the bows back to the original end. If, while doing so, the bow falls, the participants should retrieve it while still being connected without breaking the continuity of the line. The team that completes this task first is declared as the winner.
Ornament Guessing Game
Here's an easy game, and all you need is a trimmed Christmas tree. Encourage everyone at the party to guess how many ornaments are hung up on the tree. Give each person a piece of paper so they can write down their guesses. Once everyone has submitted their guesses, the closest guess wins.
Candy Cane Hook 'Em
This game gets the kids to practice coordination skills without using their hands. To begin, lay candy canes out on a table. They can be crossed over in a heap or laid out flat, depending on how challenging you'd like the game to be. Each player holds one of the candy canes in their mouth, and leans over to hook as many candy canes from the table as possible, hands-free. The winner is the player who manages to hook the most candy canes within a minute.
Christmas Cracker Piñata
This idea comes with pop and pizzazz! The oversize proportions of a piñata brings the traditional Christmas cracker to a whimsical level. Fill this foam-board creation with confetti and treats, suspend it from the ceiling with twine, and let the guests work for their loot. Too pretty to break? It can be part of your holiday décor and stored for next year.