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50 Christmas Party Themes for a Merry Celebration

Whether you're hosting the party in person or trying to stay socially distanced this year, we have plenty of festive Christmas party themes to keep the spirit bright.

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Add a Christmas theme to spice up your holiday celebrations

Holiday parties are one of the best Christmas traditionsWhat is Christmas without gathering your loved ones for holiday cheer, homemade holiday decorations, and all the festive foods? There are as many ways to celebrate as there are days in December! Whether you gather to make DIY Christmas ornaments, sing the 12 days of Christmas, or curl up and watch Christmas movies, a theme can help you plan your best party yet, making it even more special and memorable. Read on for more fun and festive Christmas party themes, including many with social-distanced or virtual options if you aren’t able to connect with loved ones in person.

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Down home Christmas party theme

Home may be where the heart is but for many people it’s not where you are anymore. Heading to wherever “home” is for you isn’t always feasible so bring home to you! Host a party themed around where you are from, whether that’s a Northeastern clambake, a Midwestern hotdish potluck, or a Southern barbecue. Be sure to include holiday decorations (like these DIY Christmas ornaments), dishes, and other traditions that make you feel at home.

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Light the lights party theme

Hanging Christmas lights solo is a recipe for disaster (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was a cautionary tale, not an example!) so invite friends over for a Hanging the Lights party. They can help you hang lights and other decorations outside your home. Celebrate with food and drinks when you flip the switch and the beautiful Christmas light display comes on. The party will be twice as fun (and nice) if you then head over to their house to get their lights up.

group of friends singing christmas carols around the pianoRyanJLane/Getty Images

Christmas caroling party theme

Singing is more fun with friends, especially when you take the show on the road. Pick your favorite Christmas carols everyone can sing, practice a few, then head out to sing to your neighbors. Finish up with hot cider and doughnuts at your home. For a little more holiday spirit, collect donations for the food bank as you go door-to-door. To get everyone in the spirit, hand out festive Christmas headbands.

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Elf on the Shelf theme party

The mischievous Elf on the Shelf is a favorite Christmas game in many households but how much more fun can you have if you host an Elf reunion? Hide elves around your home, preferably set up in silly scenes, and challenge your guests to find each one. You can hand one a cheat sheet with hints and then snack on classic elf foods, like candy canes and syrup on spaghetti.

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Christmas Eve PJ party theme

New matching jammies on Christmas Eve are a tradition for many families and wearing them to a party just means one less thing to worry about. You’ll be comfy the whole evening! Light a crackling fire, bring out the snacks, and have a fashion show with your friends and family.

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Christmas cookie swap party theme

Cookie exchanges are a classic Christmas theme because they’re a great way to get everyone together and whip up elaborate treat plates without having to slave away in the kitchen for days. Have everyone bring six dozen of their signature holiday baked treat, packaged in bags of six, and everyone gets to sample and take home a bag of each kind.

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Care packages for the homeless theme

Being without a home is tough any time of year but the holidays can make it feel especially difficult. Reach out to those in need in your community by putting together kits to hand out. Make hygiene kits with sample-sized bottles of soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, and deodorant, or try buying toiletry kits in bulk. Or put together bags with warm socks, gloves, and hats. Another idea during the pandemic is to make bags with reusable masks, hand sanitizer, and wipes. Check with your local shelters to see what is most in need in your area.

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Rudolph’s favorite reindeer games theme

Ever wonder what “reindeer games” Rudolph was being excluded from? Make up your own this year. You can start by playing ring toss with inflatable reindeer antlers. One person wears the antlers on their head while others throw red and green rings; whoever lands the most, wins. Next, play reindeer races, pin-the-tail on the reindeer, or reindeer trivia. Snack on reindeer poop and reindeer brownies.

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Christmas cocktails theme

Host a holiday happy hour and toast the season with a warm mug of eggnog, a glass of spiced wine, hot cider, or a festive specialty cocktail. Invite loved ones to bring their favorite fancy cup and you provide the drinks. To keep it socially distanced, consider delivering the drinks in festive to-go cups to your friends and families. They’ll love the surprise and you can still do your toast, safely from the porch. If you’re looking for the best gifts, get some inspiration with these gifts for women and gifts for men.

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These are a few of my favorite things theme

Oprah may have popularized the holiday “favorite things” list but you and your friends can add your own spin to it. Invite everyone to choose one favorite thing—something unique or fun or useful they’ve discovered over the past year—and wrap it up. Swap the gifts and take turns opening them, having the giver explain why it’s their favorite. Not only will you end up with something fun but if you do it early in the season you’ll get some great gift ideas for everyone on your Christmas list. You can also use one of these unique gift ideas for people who are impossible to shop for.

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Christmas luau party theme

Elvis had the right idea about Christmas—celebrate in Hawaii! Bring the island vibe to wherever you are by hosting a party with luau-style food—think roast pork, pineapple, rice, and poi— and Hawaiian decorations. Invite guests to wear a Hawaiian shirt and don’t forget to play the classic Bing Crosby Hawaiian Christmas Song – Mele Kalikimaka.

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Christmas spa day party theme

The holidays can be exhausting and take a real toll on your body. Invite some harried friends over for a few hours of pampering. Warm foot soaks, mani-pedis, face masks, cucumber-mint water, and lots of venting about the in-laws’ Christmas plans are on the schedule. Start with these essentials for a spa day at home. Send guests home with candy cane bath bombs to continue the relaxation.

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Nutcracker Christmas party theme

You don’t have to be a ballerina to enjoy a holiday party based on the classic Christmas ballet. Serve whole nuts (with a real nutcracker) and mouse cheese on crackers. Kids can battle the mouse king with foam swords or display their dancing talents. Then everyone can watch the Nutcracker together—it’s one of the top holiday movies on Disney+.

homemade advent calendar with small bags and candy caneAntiMartina/Getty Images

Advent party theme

Advent calendars—displays numbered 1 to 25 with a toy, treat, Bible verse, or message on each day—are a favorite Christmas tradition for young and old. It helps little ones count down the days and older folks focused on the reason for the season. Host a party (before December 1!) where you and your guests create a DIY advent calendar.

USA, Maryland, Baltimore, Hampden Community, 34th Street, Houses with Christmas decorations at duskGreg Pease/Getty Images

Holiday lights road trip theme

Take your Christmas party on the road to check out all the holiday light displays in your town. Invite a few other families, make a map and send it out with a time to meet and directions. Drive in a caravan (don’t forget to crank up the carols!) and end the evening with hot cocoa.

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Elf watch party theme

Host a Christmas movie watch party, either in person or online. Elf, starring Will Ferrell’s hilarious Buddy the Elf, will delight young and old viewers and has become a new tradition for many families. Feeling more old-school traditional? You can’t go wrong with one of the many adaptations of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol or any of these other best Christmas movies of all time. Put on the show, encourage people to dress up as their favorite character, and break out the popcorn in a Christmas tin.

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Gingerbread house competition theme

Decorating gingerbread houses is fun for people of all ages and is easy to throw together if you need a last-minute idea. You can make your own gingerbread or you can buy pre-made gingerbread house kits. The easiest solution, though, is to use graham crackers. (Pro tip: Use hot glue to glue the gingerbread or crackers together before decorating, it will hold together so much better and no one eats those parts anyhow!) Be sure to have plenty of frosting and an assortment of candies. Award prizes for things like “most creative,” “most Christmas-y” or “most edible.”

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I’m dreaming of a white Christmas theme

No matter where you live, you can make your own vision of a white Christmas a reality by decorating your home in a sparkling-white snow theme, asking guests to dress in all white, and serving a buffet of white foods. White chocolate peppermint mousse with salted popcorn hits both sweet and salty cravings. You can watch White Christmas if you love classic films. To lift your spirits, check out these warm-and-fuzzy holiday quotes.

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Virtual Christmas movie bingo theme

With everyone staying indoors a little more this season, take advantage of the extra time to watch your favorite holiday shows. Have each person contribute their favorite Christmas movie or TV episode and put one per square on a bingo card. Email everyone the bingo card to print out, then watch the movies throughout the month, marking them off as you go. First one to get a bingo gets a prize.

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Christmas ornament keepsake swap theme

Each person or family buys or makes ornaments that symbolize something about the previous year and then brings enough to share one with each other. You go home with a whole new batch of ornaments to decorate with. This party is a great idea for family or friends who have a tradition of getting together every year so you can watch your collection (and your happy memories) grow over time.

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Christmas stocking stuffers party theme

Adults often don’t get stockings filled with goodies but you can change that. Your mission: Find a festive, ultra-comfy pair of holiday socks and fill them with treats and small presents. Have your friends or family do the same and then host a sock party where you can exchange them by drawing names or playing a game. Finish by taking a picture of everyone in their new socks. Everyone leaves with a little more Christmas cheer—and warm toes.

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Couple exchanging giftsmihailomilovanovic/Getty Images

White elephant exchange theme

Have a strange gift leftover from last Christmas? Did you pick up a silly souvenir over the summer? White elephant parties are a great way to have a laugh, share a gift, and make good memories over the holidays. Part of the fun is hearing all the stories behind the gifts. To make it more than a re-gift, ask everyone to add a $10 gift card of their choice to their funny, strange, or interesting gift item.

Christmas Table Dinner served, decorated with Xmas Ornament, Gifts. Fireplace and Christmas tree Light. Table setting for New Year Family Party at Home Roominarik/Getty Images

Victorian high tea party theme

There’s just something so charming about a Victorian Christmas, a rosy memory of more innocent times. Host a traditional holiday tea party by bringing out the best china and cloth napkins. Serve Christmas petit fours and cookies with mint tea or hot chocolate in fancy cups with saucers. You can provide festive hats or ask guests to bring (or make!) their own. Give everyone their own Victorian-style teacup as a party favor.

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Merry Pet-mas party theme

Pets deserve some Christmas love too! Round up your pup’s best furry friends (and their owners) and invite them over for snacks and an outdoor romp. Encourage guests to wear their favorite holiday sweater then send each guest home with red and green tennis balls and an advent calendar designed just for dogs or one of these top gifts for dog lovers.

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Craft your own ornament theme

Making Christmas ornaments is creative and a fun way to spend time together. Even non-crafty folks can get a kick out of a glue gun and some glitter, especially if egg nog is involved. Look up several different ideas and have supplies and directions ready for guests. Let them sip, chat, and create a few fun ornaments to take home and hang on their tree.

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Sneaky Christmas heart “attack” theme

Take the party to your loved ones this year by doing a holiday-themed “heart attack.” Cut out hearts and snowflakes from wrapping paper and write a cheery or loving message on them. Then grab a bag of adhesive bows, and head to their home. Tape the decorations to their door, add a bag of Christmas candy or a plate of cookies, ring the doorbell and run! Or stick around to chat from the porch. This is a great party option to cheer up relatives who may be homebound during the holidays.

Virtual Christmas toast theme

Looking for a simple, stress-free idea? Set up a Zoom party and ask guests to bring their beverage of choice and a toast to share with the group. It can be funny or serious or sweet. Catch up while toasting each other and the holidays. To make it a little fancier you can send out a bottle of your favorite wine or drink in advance.

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Christmas trivia night theme

Did you know that Christmas dinner used to be illegal in the United States? Or that wreaths have a secret meaning? Take everyone’s favorite pub game and turn it into a fun holiday party by hosting a Christmas trivia night, either in your home or online.

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Holiday recipe exchange theme

Do you have the best cinnamon swirl bread? Is your great uncle’s cheeseball so good it’s considered a main dish? Does your best friend have a holiday leftover casserole that makes you drool just thinking of it? Host a Christmas recipe exchange party by asking each guest to bring one of their signature dishes, along with printouts of the recipe to share. Guests can taste each dish and leave with a whole new menu of tried-and-true favorites.

Group of Friends Gathered Around a Fire PitAnchiy/Getty Images

Firelight fun theme

Bonfires aren’t just for fall. If weather permits, light up a yule log and have friends and family over to drink hot cocoa and sing carols around the fire. Add a s’mores bar or pop popcorn over the fire and you have the perfect recipe for a cozy, intimate Christmas gathering.

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Christmas Eve book party theme

Get all those little heads snug in their beds by reading a favorite holiday story. Invite friends and family to share their favorite Christmas book by bringing a wrapped copy and trading. Make it an event by serving foods from popular holiday books, like sugar plums, “roast beast,” and chestnuts.

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Twelve Clues of Christmas scavenger hunt theme

If you like getting creative with your Christmas party themes, transform the popular Christmas carol “The 12 Days of Christmas” into a fun family scavenger hunt. Hide holiday knick-knacks inspired by the song (like golden rings or a bird toy as a stand-in for the turtle doves) throughout your house and backyard with a clue to the next surprise. The first person who solves the clue gets the gift! Just make sure you leave the clue behind for the other players so they can proceed to the next stop of the scavenger hunt for an opportunity to get a gift. Count your presents at the end of the hunt and whoever has the most wins! For more fun activities, play these fun Christmas games every guest will enjoy.

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A Christmas Story party theme

If you’re a superfan of A Christmas Story and know every line by Ralphie and Scut Farkus, then this party inspired by the iconic classic is for you! Make it an old-fashioned 1940s Christmas by serving candies like black licorice, candy buttons, and Bazooka bubble gum alongside a refreshing antique glass bottle of Coca-Cola. Incorporate accents from the movie in your party decorations, like a life-size leg lamp, sprinkle tinsel on your Christmas tree branches, or play a game, inspired by Ralphie’s little brother Randy, to see who can eat a plate of mashed potatoes without any hands (and don’t forget to oink like a pig when you’re done!).

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Christmas “Carol-oke” theme

Grab your karaoke machine or hit up a karaoke bar and belt your lungs out to your favorite Christmas songs. Try to see which friend can croon like Bing Crosby or hit the high octaves like Mariah Carey. If you have a portable karaoke machine, walk door-to-door in your neighborhood to, in the words of Buddy the Elf, “spread Christmas cheer for all to hear.” No matter how tone-deaf you are, you can still practice your “carol-oke” with the best Christmas songs ever.

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Christmas around the world potluck theme

Nothing helps you embrace another culture more than eating their native food. This party’s concept is simple: Each guest claims a country, researches the Christmas cuisine there, and cooks it for everyone to taste. As you gorge on all the different flavors and textures, share a few holiday traditions from your adopted nation. Try risalamande, a traditional Danish rice dessert made with cream and almonds, or a linguine dish with mussels to kick off an Italian Christmas Eve tradition called the Feast of Seven Fishes.

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Decorate your own ugly Christmas sweater theme

Put a new twist on one of these popular Christmas party themes and design your own ugly sweaters. Ask your guests to find an old sweatshirt to bring to the party. Then head to a craft store for fuzzy pom-poms, sparkles, fabric paint, felt, buttons, scissors, hot glue, and some mothballs for that rich “grandma” scent. Spread all the craft supplies out on the dining room table or living room floor, and you’re all set! Remember, the tackier the sweater, the uglier … and the better! Try adding some friendly competition to the mix with a contest for “Worst Smelling Sweater” or “Prettiest Ugly Sweater.” If that sounds like too much work, buy one of the best ugly Christmas sweaters.

Taylor Momsen And Jim Carrey In 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas'Archive Photos/Getty Images

Merry Grinch-mas party theme

Take a trip down memory lane with a Dr. Seuss-themed “Grinch Dinner and a Movie” night. Cook a Sunday rib roast for dinner, a special rendition of the Whos’ favorite roast-beast; put your hair up in a wacky Whoville style; and watch both the classic Grinch cartoon and live-action movie starring Jim Carrey. Bonus points if someone dresses up as the Grinch, especially if you score one of these funny Christmas photos.

Santa's GrottoSolStock/Getty Images

Santa’s workshop theme

Do Santa proud and dress up as his elves for the day. Ask people to bring a toy over to donate to their local toy drive and get out the wrapping paper, bows, bags, and tags to decorate the gifts. Play the famous song, “We Are Santa’s Elves” from the movie Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in the background to get you and your busy elf friends inspired to give back to the community. Don’t miss these vintage photos that show what Christmas looked like 100 years ago.

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Twelve Courses of Christmas dinner theme

A 12-course feast fit for a belly as big as Santa’s may be one of the best Christmas party themes. Make a list and designate appetizers, entrees, and desserts for your guests to bring. Some festive dishes include spinach-stuffed tomatoes, pizza shaped like a Christmas tree or a candy cane, cranberry walnut salad, roasted turkey, maple-glazed ham, and Christmas cookies, of course.

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Christmas in July theme

Throw a beach bash in the middle of winter! Grab some beach balls, blow up palm trees, display tiki torchlights, and blast the Beach Boys. Enforce a dress code that includes tropical button-ups, hula skirts, sunglasses, and flip-flops. For those of you who already live by the beach, throw a cozy Christmas party. Make a fire pit in the sand for a batch of s’mores and invite everyone to wear their favorite onesie, earmuffs, and mittens.

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Christmas craft and sip theme

‘Tis the season for a good ol’ homemade crafting session! Christmas is the best time to hone your inner crafter and make wreaths, wrapping paper, and ornaments. Peruse Pinterest for clever, easy DIY craft-spiration and have guests bring their favorite holiday beverage to sip on while they work away.

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Winter Wonderland party theme

This one is easy! All you need is snow, a pair of snow pants, and a mug of hot cocoa with mini marshmallows. Host a snowy day of fun outside for your kids and their friends, filled with sledding, snowman building, and snow forts. Try visiting one of the 20 best small towns for Christmas lights.

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Christmas costume party theme

Halloween isn’t the only time of year you’re allowed to dress up like a kooky character. Christmas can be a legitimate excuse, too! Tell everyone to come as their favorite Christmas character, like Buddy the Elf, Santa Claus, Rudolph, Frosty, or Ebenezer Scrooge. Throw a costume contest where guests get to vote on “Cutest Christmas Couple” or “Best Dressed Santa.”

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Christmas chef party theme

Take the idea from the cooking competition Master Chef and give it a holiday twist. Get seasonal ingredients—the stranger the better—and hide them under two boxes. Divide guests into two teams, set a timer, and challenge them to create a Christmas culinary masterpiece out of what’s in front of them. Then everyone gets to taste test. For more holiday cheer, hand out these elf aprons to guests to wear during the game.

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Christmas brunch party theme

Evenings during the holiday season fill up fast so a quick Christmas brunch may be exactly the break your friends need in their social calendar.

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Charcuterie and appetizers party theme

People mainly come to holiday parties to talk, hang out, catch up with loved ones, and have fun. So keep the food simple by putting out a charcuterie spread and some Christmas appetizers. Mix and mingle with your loved ones without having to worry about serving a meal.

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Christmas slime party theme

This theme is perfect for tiny guests. Kids love making their own slime but adults will also get a kick out of the “it’s cold but not wet” craft. Provide the basic DIY slime ingredients (white school glue, saline contact solution, and baking powder) plus some festive extras like red and green food coloring, snowflake glitter, shiny beads, and plastic stars. Provide a small plastic Christmas tub so everyone can take their creation home. Take it to the next level with a gold metallic DIY slime kit.

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Paint a wonderland scene party theme

For a quieter holiday evening, host a painting party. You can hire a local artist (find one through Gallery on the Go), choose a Christmas scene, and they will provide all the supplies. You provide the guests, drinks, and perhaps some mood music. Everyone gets to go home with a new DIY Christmas decoration!

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.

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