20+ ideas for your next office Christmas party (for London and the UK)
No matter how big or small, throwing an office Christmas party is a great way to get your employees excited for the holiday season. Plus, it makes them feel valued and appreciated, helping to boost productivity and morale.
The continuing Covid situation may have caused the widespread cancellation of office Christmas parties in 2021 with many businesses opting to go virtual. However, all good event organisers know that planning a great party doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re looking for fun office Christmas party ideas for next year’s holiday season, we’ve created this comprehensive list to help you organise an unforgettable event your employees will thank you for.
Top Tip: Businesses can claim many Christmas party expenses, such as transportation, entertainment, Christmas decor and employee gifts that cost £50 or less. Learn more about what deductible Christmas party expenses you can claim in the UK 💰
Table of contents
- 1. Festive tree decorating competition
- 2. Gingerbread house building competition
- 3. Secret Santa (also known as Kris Kringle)
- 4. White elephant exchange
- 5. Hire an entertainer
- 6. Ugly holiday sweater contest
- 7. Game night
- 8. Set up a photo booth
- 9. Holiday bingo
- 10. Karaoke party
- 11. Christmas potluck
- 12. Snowball fight
- 13. Movie night
- 14. Silent disco
- 15. Award ceremony
- 16. Holiday retreat
- 17. Murder mystery party
- 18. Hot chocolate bar
- 19. Go to a theme park
- 20. Christmas icebreakers
- 21. Minute to Win it (office version)
- 22. Scavenger hunt
- 23. Escape room party
- Wrapping up
1. Festive tree decorating competition
Hosting a Christmas tree (or festive tree) decorating competition can help your employees explore their creative and competitive sides while still keeping things fun for the festive season.
Here’s how to successfully execute this party idea:
- Start by dividing your employees into groups
- Share the competition rules, including the limitation of items each team can use, and the time they have to decorate their trees
- Provide each group a tree, along with the ornaments they can use
- Once the time is up, you can have each team explain their designs
- Judges or coworkers can choose the winner
Want to get more creative? Add a team-building twist to this idea by adding extra challenges (e.g., not using your hands). Make sure each group is diverse and has members from different departments to prevent any unfair advantage.
2. Gingerbread house building competition
Shake things up with a gingerbread house competition. Instead of decorating a tree, employees will compete against each other to build and decorate a house out of gingerbread.
To kick this off, divide your employees into groups of four or five, and hand each group the materials they need to build a house from scratch. This will include the base of the gingerbread house, such as the walls and roofs, and any items needed to decorate the house, like candy canes, icing, liquorice allsorts and other sweets.
Set a timer and get the fun started. Once the time limit for the competition is finished, have the judges go to each workstation where the groups can explain their designs before picking the winning team.
3. Secret Santa (also known as Kris Kringle)
Organising a secret gift exchange for your office Christmas party is one of the most common additions to office Christmas parties.
Here’s how it works.
Ahead of the party, write all the names of your employees on a piece of paper and put them in a bowl for people to choose. (This is best done at least a week before, so people have time to organise the gifts.)
Employees then buy a gift without letting their recipient know and give the gift at the party. Some offices like to reveal the Secret Santa at the time of giving, while some keep it anonymous. In the latter case, employees will leave the gift in a general area (such as an office or under a tree) and then one person will hand them out from the common pool.
Make sure you lay down any ground rules for Secret Santa. For example, you can keep things fair by allocating a spending limit. This ensures that no one overspends or underspends when purchasing a gift for their coworkers.
Note: Secret Santa is ideal for small offices or within departments where everyone knows each other well enough to buy them a gift.
4. White elephant exchange
The white elephant exchange is similar to the Secret Santa exchange above but with a fun twist.
Here are the basic rules of the game:
- Each employee contributes a wrapped gift to a common pool.
- Next, employees draw numbers to determine the order they’ll choose.
- All the gifts are placed in the centre (on a table or on the floor). The first player selects a gift from the pool and opens it.
- The next player can either unwrap a new gift or steal a gift from the previous player.
- Anyone who gets their gift stolen can do the same: choose a new gift, or steal a gift from someone else. Whether you choose to let employees immediately choose a new gift or wait until a new round begins is up to you.
You can set a limit to the number of times a gift can be stolen or exchanged (e.g., two times). When everyone has a gift and no one wants to steal a gift, the game is finished.
Just like in Secret Santa, you can also set a spending limit for this game, so the gift exchange is fair to all employees. In this game, it’s fun to have a mix of nice Christmas gifts and funny items.
5. Hire an entertainer
Another fun Christmas party idea is to hire a professional entertainer. It could be a local band, a comedian or even a magician.
This is a good idea if you don’t want to give your employees extra tasks ahead of the party (like buying presents). Everyone can just sit back, relax and have fun in the audience.
If you’re thinking of hiring a comedian, you can tell them a little bit about your office, employees and culture. This can help personalise their performance, making it relatable and non-offensive.
You can also invite your employees to bring their families to the event. If kids are coming, it’s a nice idea to have a separate room or area for the children to play or do activities.
6. Ugly holiday sweater contest
Host a contest where the employees with the ugliest holiday sweater win a prize. Add some creativity to this tradition by asking people to design and create their own ugly sweater at the party.
Divide your employees into pairs or teams and hand out one plain sweater to each group.
Provide various fun and quirky decorative items and ornaments they can use to design their sweaters, such as fabric pens and stickers, battery-operated string lights, glitter, etc.
Make sure each team has a workstation where they can design their sweaters, and have a supply of scissors, glue and safety pins ready.
Once the timer is up, have one person from each team wear their sweater while the rest of them explain their fun and creative designs.
7. Game night
This is another easy-to-organise office Christmas party idea. All you need to do is get several classic video games and board games, and let your employees have fun playing them.
Here are some games you can arrange for your Christmas game night:
- Retro Nintendo video games
- Giant Jenga
- Trivial Pursuit
- Ping pong
To make management easier, make sure you have enough board games for everyone to play. If you’re using video games, then make sure there are enough controllers and extra batteries.
You can also arrange a PlayStation or an Xbox area for the game night. But make sure you have plenty of multiplayer games that several employees can participate in at a time.
8. Set up a photo booth
Setting up a photo booth in the office is pretty simple. All you need is a good camera, a tripod and a nice area you can decorate.
You can easily set up a backdrop using streamers, fabric or a printed sign. Then position the camera in front of the backdrop and include a basket of props.
Use holiday or Christmas-themed props that employees can hold up in their photo. Props could include:
- Elf ears
- Santa hats and beards
- Reindeer antlers
- String lights
You can hire a professional photographer to come to your party venue, or set up a tripod with an extendable holder for smartphones.
Don’t forget to take an office group photo. Use it in your company newsletter, share it on social media or frame it and hang it in the office to remind everyone of the good time.
9. Holiday bingo
Holiday bingo is another great game that you can easily play at your next office Christmas party. Since there are so many variations of this game, we recommend you find one that suits your office culture.
One popular team-building version of the game involves participants finding other employees who match certain criteria or can answer trivia on the bingo card. When they find someone who qualifies, they write that employee’s name in the square.
The first person who completes a row, vertically or horizontally, wins the game. Shouting, “Bingo!” is optional.
Top Tip: You can also play virtual Christmas Bingo over Zoom. This is a great idea for remote-first companies or businesses that are avoiding in-person events during the pandemic. Learn more fun games to play with our virtual Christmas party ideas guide 💻
10. Karaoke party
Do your employees love to sing? Organise a karaoke party in the office to let everyone loosen up and have some fun.
All you need is a karaoke machine with several popular songs and a microphone. Invite your employees up one at a time or in groups to show off their favourite tunes.
Alternatively, you can also head out with your team to a karaoke bar to make this happen. There are usually plenty of these spots in the city (and surrounding areas), and many of them can accommodate large groups.
You can either rent a private karaoke room for a few hours or book the entire venue, depending on the number of party members and the budget. Keep in mind that these places get busy during the holiday season, so it’s always good to book well in advance.
11. Christmas potluck
Christmas potlucks are an excellent choice for small businesses that want to throw a great office Christmas party without burning a hole in their pockets.
At a Christmas dinner potluck, all employees share the responsibility of bringing food to the party, so the cost is divided.
To host a successful potluck, employees can volunteer to bring the dishes they are most comfortable making.
Items to consider include:
- Hot and cold appetisers
- Several main dishes
- Side dishes
- Drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic)
You’ll also want to make sure you have enough disposable plates, cups and napkins. Or hire a rental service to provide cutlery for you (and do the washing up).
And don’t forget to check everyone’s allergens!
12. Snowball fight
Office snowball fights work the same way as a game of dodgeball. You divide employees into teams, and whenever you’re hit with a “snowball”, you’re out.
You can either order several soft, white balls for teams to throw and find a suitable area in the office (such as in a canteen, away from office equipment). Or head out to a gaming arena that has the facilities.
If you have a large office, you can set this up as a tournament of teams. It could be fun to make this an annual holiday event, documenting the winning teams each year!
13. Movie night
This is one of the easiest office Christmas party ideas that you can organise. All you need to do is set up a TV or a projector and some clear wall space, arrange chairs, choose a film to show during the event and hit play.
There are so many Christmas movies to choose from. To make sure you’re showing something everyone wants to watch, you can send out a survey to ask for movie options and then run a poll so employees can select from the top choices.
To make your employees’ experience worthwhile, make sure you have enough drinks and snacks for everyone, such as crisps and popcorn. Don’t forget to arrange comfortable seats, cosy blankets and a screen big enough to show the movie.
14. Silent disco
A fun alternative to traditional Christmas party ideas is to organise a silent disco party. Here, you’ll hand out wireless headphones to all your employees, who can dance to the tunes of their choice or to the same song being played by a DJ.
To anyone without headphones, the room will appear completely silent (except for the sound of shuffling feet and employees singing along). But those with headphones can dance the night away!
If you have a tight budget, you can also ask your employees to bring in their own devices with music and headphones. Some streaming services will also allow you to play the same song on multiple devices, like Spotify’s Group Sessions.
15. Award ceremony
Organising an award ceremony for your employees is a great way to celebrate the holiday season and show your staff you appreciate their hard work. You can set this up with real awards, trophies, bonuses, gift vouchers or certificates.
Take this opportunity to award your best-performing employees, like the person with the most sales, the person who showed the most improvement, the best customer representative and the person who hit all their year-end goals.
You can also add some fun categories to the ceremony, such as the person who spends the most time on their phones, the office prankster, the office DJ, the caffeine addict, the one who’s always hungry and the kindest person in the workplace.
16. Holiday retreat
Company retreats are great for team bonding and morale. Whether you’re organising a bespoke overnighter or a team-building day trip, getting away from the office is sometimes what everyone needs to feel refreshed.
Tell all your employees several weeks in advance to save the date for the retreat so it won’t interfere with their personal plans. Then, finalise the venue and the details of your retreat.
For the holiday season, you can get away for some wine tasting in the countryside, relax in a spa, or organise a yoga wellness holiday.
17. Murder mystery party
Murder mystery parties can make for fun, interactive office Christmas parties at smaller firms. Share the game’s theme with participants well in advance. You can keep it vague, such as “murder at an ugly sweater party” or more specific, such as “murder at a 1920s cocktail party”.
On the day of the party, hand out detailed roles to each employee, and give them time to go through the script. At least one person will need to be in the know, or you’ll need to hire an agency to conduct the party for you.
For remote companies, here are tons of virtual murder mystery games ideas to choose from.
18. Hot chocolate bar
For your next office Christmas party, you can set up a hot chocolate and cookies bar. Your sweet-toothed employees will love you for it.
Set up tables in the office with hot chocolate mix, cookies and cakes, along with many different Christmas-themed toppings, like crushed candy canes and red and green sprinkles.
To make it really impressive, you can include a chocolate fondue fountain.
Make sure that you have gloves, tongs, scoops, plates and cutlery available.
19. Go to a theme park
If you’re looking for an alternative work Christmas party idea, consider heading out to an amusement park instead. Employees can enjoy thrilling roller coasters, eating sweet treats and bringing out their inner child.
Alternatively, you can also arrange a trip to a local bowling alley, skating rink or paintball arena. Get competitive and divide employees into teams, or keep it casual and let people enjoy themselves freely.
20. Christmas icebreakers
If your employees don’t know each other well and you want to plan a party that also helps with team-building, consider organising an ice-breaking session.
Here’s one way to kick off a party ice-breaking session:
- Start by having each employee raise all their 10 fingers.
- Have participants put forward different scenarios, starting with “never have I ever” and ending with “in the office”.
- Each employee who has done what’s said will lower one finger at a time.
As the game continues, the questions will become more fun, and your employees will all get to know each other better. Lay down some ground rules beforehand to keep the game clean and non-offensive.
21. Minute to Win it (office version)
Minute to Win it games are wildly popular because they’re fun and competitive. Each contestant has to complete tasks in 60 seconds or less to win the games.
This idea works especially well for small businesses that want to organise a fun corporate event while staying within a strict budget. Here are some Minute to Win it games you can play.
- Balloon bounce: Each player has to keep two balloons up in the air with only one hand. The person who keeps the balloons in the air the longest wins the game.
- Pretty windy: Place two lines of disposable cups on the edge of two tables, and hand a balloon to each competitor. They have to blow up the balloon and use the air inside it to knock over the cups. Whoever knocks over the most cups in 60 seconds wins the game.
- Cookie face: Place a cookie on each player’s forehead, and see who gets the cookie down to their mouth without using their hands the quickest.
- Candy cane magnet. Hand out several candy canes to each team. The task is to hang as many candy canes as possible on a teammate’s body. The team that uses the most candy canes wins the game.
- Speed eraser. Set up a row of empty glasses and have each participant bounce pencils off the eraser end and into the cup. The person who fills the glasses first wins the game.
- Cup stack. The task is to create a tower of cups without the stack falling over. The team that reaches a set number of cups first wins the game.
At the end of the event, the team or player with the highest number of completed tasks wins a prize or certificate.
22. Scavenger hunt
Organising a scavenger hunt is not just a fun office party idea, it’s also a great team-building exercise that can help your employees learn to work with each other better. Take the scavenger hunt outside by letting teams find the answers within a certain area (such as a one-kilometre radius of the building).
To kick this off, divide your employees into teams and give them a list of tasks to complete. Here are some tasks to add to your scavenger hunt list:
- Take pictures with a person wearing a red sweater
- Find someone who has the middle name “Eugene”
- Take a picture with Santa
- Build a paper airplane
- Find someone with a tattoo
- Find a child’s Christmas drawing
Scavenger hunts work well when there’s a time limit—whoever completes their tasks quickest wins the game.
23. Escape room party
A great way to take your Christmas party outside the office is to book an escape room.
Escape rooms are problem-solving games that require teams to solve puzzles and mysteries using hints and clues in order to leave the room they’re locked in.
If you have the time and resources, you can also set up escape rooms in your office. Come up with a fun mystery, such as “someone has kidnapped the CEO”. Place clues around the office for teams to find and figure out who has kidnapped the CEO and where he or she is hidden. Alternatively, keep things light using fictional characters.
To add a festive touch to this idea, decorate the room or office with Christmas lights and play holiday music or Christmas carols as teams work to solve the mystery.
Organising a great Christmas party is a wonderful way to engage your employees in team-building exercises, show them appreciation and boost their morale.
The best party idea for your office is one that ensures your employees have a great time while getting into the Christmas spirit.
And thanks to the taxable benefits offered by HMRC, you can make your annual Christmas party a festive event with a little relief.
Happy holidays from Tide!
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk, published on Pexels