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35 Fun Christmas Party Themes You Never Thought of Until Now

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

Smiling woman holding present during holiday party with friends in homeThomas Barwick/Getty Images

Add a theme to spice up your holiday celebrations

Christmas parties may look a little different this year, thanks to the pandemic. Social distancing rules, concerns about elderly or high-risk family members, and financial constraints can all dampen holiday cheer, not to mention Christmas parties. Large, fancy gatherings and elaborate holiday trips aren’t prudent this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate the season in style. In fact, this can give you the opportunity to make this year even more special and memorable. Who knows, you might even start a new Christmas tradition that will remind you of the joy and craziness of 2020. One way to do that is with one of these fun and festive Christmas party themes, including many with social-distanced or virtual options. Click on for merry party inspiration.

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Christmas Eve Zoom PJ party

New jammies on Christmas Eve are a tradition for many families and it’s one easily adapted to social-distancing guidelines. Order matching pajamas for the whole gang (don’t forget the Santa hats!) and log on to Zoom. Set a crackling fire as your background, bring out the snacks, and have a fashion show with your friends and family. Don’t forget to stuff the stockings!

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Christmas cookie swap

Cookie exchanges are a classic Christmas party 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. This can also be done virtually this year, by exchanging favorite recipes online, showing off your magical creations over video chat, or even mailing cookies to loved ones. Make sure you know these 14 hacks for baking the best Christmas cookies.

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Care packages for the homeless

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 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

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. When you have reindeer for pets, it’s Christmas every day!

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Christmas cocktails (to go)

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. To keep it socially-distanced, consider delivering the drinks to your friends and families. They’ll love the surprise and you can still do your toast, safely from the porch.

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These are a few of my favorite things

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.

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

Holiday lights road trip

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 while social distancing in your driveway. It’s a perfect way to get some holiday cheer without putting anyone at risk during the pandemic.

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Elf watch party

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. Put on the show, encourage people to dress up as their favorite character, and break out the Christmas candy popcorn. Bonus: This party is super simple to move online if you’re trying to stay socially distanced this year! Use Netflix Party to watch it together online and chat. Or take inspiration from the best Christmas movies of all time.

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Gingerbread house competition

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.” Take it virtual by decorating them at home and sharing your creations online.

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I’m dreaming of a white Christmas

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

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—or a blackout!—gets a prize.

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Christmas ornament keepsake swap

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. Hint: This is a Christmas tradition that the White House does each year!

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Christmas stocking stuffers party

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. To make it COVID-friendly, draw names online, mail the stuffed stockings, and have everyone open them on a Zoom party.

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White elephant exchange

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. Here’s exactly how to do a white elephant gift exchange.

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

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.

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Merry Pet-mas party

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 cats. Check out these best gifts for dog lovers.

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Craft your own ornament

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. Got little ones? Try these 20 easy Christmas ornament crafts for kids.

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Sneaky Christmas heart “attack”

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.

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Virtual Christmas toast

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. For something new, try one of these traditional toasts from around the world.

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Christmas trivia night

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. Start with these Christmas trivia facts you never knew.

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Holiday recipe exchange

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. You can also do this online by asking people for their favorite recipe along with a picture, which you can compile into an e-book. Don’t have a favorite to share? Try one of these 30 Christmas appetizers everyone will love.

Group of Friends Gathered Around a Fire PitAnchiy/Getty Images

Firelight fun

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. Bonus: Being outside can help with social-distancing. Just make sure to follow your local rules about gathering size.

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Christmas Eve book party

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. Or try one of these Christmas Eve traditions you’ll want to start this year.

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Twelve Clues of Christmas scavenger hunt

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 13 family Christmas games every guest will enjoy.

Peter Billingsley In 'A Christmas Story'Archive Photos/Getty Images

A Christmas Story party

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!). Find out the history behind these 10 favorite Christmas traditions.

Generation Z Friends Christmas Party Singing At PianoRyanJLane/Getty Images

Christmas “Carol-oke”

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 20 best Christmas songs ever.

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Christmas around the world potluck

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. Here are 15 more Christmas traditions from around the world that you should steal

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Decorate your own ugly Christmas sweater

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 funny ugly Christmas sweaters

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

Merry Grinch-mas party

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

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

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. Make sure you know these 14 Christmas cookie baking hacks for the holiday season.

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Christmas in July

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

‘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. You can also try one of these 24 DIY Christmas decorations anyone can make

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Winter Wonderland party

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

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.” Next, find out the 18 holiday decorating mistakes you didn’t know you were making.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Ashley Lewis
Ashley is an Assistant Editor at Reader’s Digest. She received her Master’s Degree from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in 2015. Before joining Reader’s Digest, she was a Jason Sheftell Fellow at the New York Daily News and interned at Seventeen and FOX News. When Ashley is not diligently fact-checking the magazine or writing for rd.com, she enjoys cooking (butternut squash pizza is her signature dish), binge-watching teen rom-coms on Netflix that she’s way too old for, and hiking (and falling down) mountains.
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.