We are in full-swing holiday mode at our house. How about you? Are you having a large family get-together or are you looking forward to a more intimate celebration this season?
In Part 2 of An Illusion of Joy or an Infusion of Joy?, I said I’d get back to you with some ideas to pull everybody in without adding more stress to your schedule. The pressure of the promise has stuck with me and I’m here to make good on it with six simple and fun Christmas games to try at your gatherings this year.
Silly games bring laughter and make for merry memories. With just a small bit of preparation, these games have gone over huge for me. Most of them are available on the internet, but here you have them in one spot, tried and true and highly recommended.
Paper plate overhead draw
What you need: Pens and cheap paper plates (1 of each per participant. They don’t have to be cheap plates, but since they aren’t holding food, they can be!)
How to play: Each person puts the plate on their head. You lead them through drawing something simple. The plate stays on their heads until the end. We most recently did a snowman. It went something like this. I said:
“Your snowman is made of 3 circles.” I paused while they drew 3 circles on the plate, on top of their heads. Then I continued, pausing between each instruction.
“There is a top-hat on his head”.
“He has 3 buttons down the middle circle.”
“He has 2 eyes.”
“He has 2 stick-like arms.”
“He has a carrot nose.”
“He has 3 fingers at the end of his left arm.”
“He has a scarf around his neck.”
“He has 4 fingers at the end of his right arm.”
“He has a crooked smile.”
“There is holly on his hat.”
The jumping around is intentional. It is difficult to re-find a place when you cannot see it. That is the fun. When your instructions are done, everyone gets to take their plate off their head and see their masterpiece. Pass the plates around and have everyone vote on the best, the most impressionistic, the most realistic face, or whatever categories you want to include.
Behind the back paper rip
What you need: One piece of paper per person
How to play: Each person stands holding a piece of paper behind their back. The instructions are simply to keep the paper behind their back and rip it into a Christmas tree. You may want to set a timer for added pressure, but it isn’t necessary. It is harder than it seems. (You may, or may not, want to add the caveat that folding the paper and ripping symmetrically, which makes it significantly easier, is not allowed.) At the end, have everyone show their masterpiece and take votes on best, most unique, smallest, etc.
What you need: One copy of the Item List for each participant. (Click the picture below for a ‘copy & paste’ printable version of the Item List. Feel free to change it up to suit your group!)
How to play: This is a Scavenger hunt each person conducts in their phone. The list assigns points per item and participants tally their score for whatever they can find. Examples might be ‘a contact named Mary’, or ‘a Christmas song ring tone’. Whoever has the most points is the winner. You can decide whether to make it a timed exercise or not, depending on the savvy of the crowd you have. You can also pick a few items and require the winner ‘show and tell’ to prove their win.
What you need: A bag or two of marshmallows
How to play: Divide up into pairs and have partners stand across from each other. This is run just like a water balloon toss, but when one partner tosses a marshmallow, the other must catch it in his/her mouth. We have done this many ways:
~ Large marshmallows are worth 2 points and small ones worth 1 point. Partners strategize how they can reach 14 points the quickest. (Go for small and easy, or risk the harder catch for a chance to earn more quickly?) The team with 14 points in the shortest amount of time wins.
~ Set a timer for 30 seconds and the team with the most overall catches in the allotted time is the winner.
~ Start with the partners close to each other for the first toss. Each team who makes the catch takes a step back while those who do not sit down. Each successful catch requires a step back, enlarging the distance between teammates. The last team standing wins.
The Left / Right Game
This is one of my favorites. There are two versions here. The first one is short, sweet and secular. It is good for an office party, or for a gathering where religious content is not allowed. But I prefer the Nativity version, which is the second picture. It is a fantastic way to share the Christmas story with everyone at your gathering. (Click on the pictures below for copy & paste printable versions).
What you need: At least 1 wrapped gift. I would suggest 1 gift per 5 participants. It does not have to be expensive.
How to play: Everyone sits in a circle, close enough to pass the gifts. You read the story. Every time you say the words “Right” or “Left”, the present(s) get passed to the person to the “Right” or “Left” of whoever is in possession. When the story ends, the person or people holding the gift(s) wins it.
This can be a fun way to do a gift exchange. We had a party where everyone brought a Christmas mug. Everyone carried the one they’d brought to the circle and left with the one they were holding at the end of the story.
What you need: Antler headbands, rings, Rudolph noses (optional)
This one might take a bit of preparation if you don’t have Reindeer Antlers on hand. I found mine at Party City for $1. If you have a crafty teen in your life, I’m sure they could rig some up for you. Some people can work wonders with pipe cleaners and others can make anything with duct tape!
How to play: I have 2 pairs of reindeer antlers, so we play this game with 2 teams. Each team picks one of their members to be the reindeer, who wears the antlers and stands at least 5 feet from the rest of the team. Their teammates take turns trying to toss rings onto the antlers. The team with the most wins. (The reindeer is ABSOLUTELY allowed to duck and dive to try to catch the rings!)
Each participant can make their own ring by cutting the middle out of the plate they used in game 1 (Paper Plate Overhead Draw). Or the rings can be made in advance with pipe cleaners. I upped the ante this year by purchasing blinking Rudolph noses from the dollar store and using glow sticks as rings. We turned out the lights and played by the Christmas tree.
Our family has been doing Christmas game night for several years now. My husband and I purchase an array of small denomination gift cards as prizes and organize the games. This is our Christmas gift to everyone. It is low stress, and we avoid the mall and the dreaded pressure of shopping for perfect presents all around.
Everybody always shows up, and with 5 adult kids and their significant others, all with jobs and some living hours away, that says something. We enjoy the experience of playing together. In fact, we held this year’s gathering a couple weeks ago because it was the only night on the calendar everyone could make it and no one wanted to be left out. It is one of our favorite nights of the year!
These games I have listed are our favorites. We also play a Christmas version of Bingo, do word games, relays, Family Feud, and others. The competition is surpassed only by laughter and our face muscles are always sore the next day from smiling so hard.
My parents recently had a family party and we played games there too. Some of our winnings were translated to a dollar amount, which will be donated to charity in our names. I thought that was a great idea!
What do you think? Will you introduce any of these six simple and fun Christmas games to try at your gatherings this year? Do you have any other favorites you’d like to share?