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How to plan a work holiday celebration

October 16, 2020
Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team
October 16, 2020 | Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team

This article was updated on November 11, 2021

From vaccine rollouts to the return of the summer Olympics, 2021 has been a turning point in the pandemic. As the year winds down and the holiday season starts to wind up, you may be looking forward to end-of-the-year celebrations —including with your work family.

Whether your small business has returned to the office or remained remote, a company-wide work holiday party is a fun way to boost employee morale.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be an expensive, elaborate company holiday party. With some simple, low-cost holiday office party ideas, you can bring cheer into the New Year without bringing the price tag to your holiday gathering.

Oh, the party possibilities 

An office holiday party can be so much more than presenting a platter of delectable treats in the conference room and singing along to a soundtrack of holiday classics. From game nights to team-building challenges, the options for socially engaging holiday celebrations are endless. All you have to do is narrow it down to one (or maybe two, depending on your team’s celebration stamina). 

Company shenanigans 

Shenanigans may not be part of your traditional 9 to 5, but at your holiday gathering, all the rules go out the window. Well, not all the rules. You’ll need to adhere to some rules and regulations when it comes to some of these winning activities: 

Game night No matter the size of your work celebration, consider hosting a group game night. One of the easiest games to play in a large group is the Mafia-style card game, Werewolf. Formatted for between 5 and 75 people, you and other employees are assigned secret roles and must engage in strategy, plotting, and a bit of cunning in order to win. Participants square off until all werewolves are eradicated, or townspeople and werewolves reach equal numbers.

You can also take a COVID-safe approach by taking game night to the digital world. Host an online game night with digital games like:

Team challenge – If you’re looking for activities that lean toward problem-solving rather than subterfuge, team challenges are a perfect way to get your holiday office party started. Think murder mysteries, escape rooms, and trivia events.

Although these holiday party idea options may require additional costs and involve reservations, if planned accordingly (and if it’s in your party budget), they make it easy for your team to bond and make one-of-a-kind memories. 

To save money, you can also consider organizing your own murder mystery party or creating your own trivia event (both of which you can do in a digital setting).

Group creations – Paint nights have recently become a popular group activity for those with and without artistic skill. If you aren’t able to find any paint nights in your area, try planning your own. All you need are canvases, paint, and brushes. You can turn this into a remote-friendly activity by sending a paint set (and maybe a few treats) to your team and following an online painting tutorial.

Decorations Decorations make anything feel festive. If you’re looking for small office holiday party ideas, streamers, balloons, confetti, and paper hats are all lightweight and effective in transforming any space. 

To get your team involved, consider assigning everyone a designated space to decorate and holding a contest with prizes for best, worst, and most unusual use of the provided frills. This party idea is sure to get everyone into the holiday spirit. You can also send your teammates a box of ornament-making equipment so everyone can turn on their cameras and show off their holiday artistic spirit.

Gift exchange – Gift exchanges like Secret Santa are perfect for holiday work celebrations. Send out name assignments around Thanksgiving to give everyone plenty of time to find the right gift for their Secret Santa. You can set a maximum gift price to keep things comfortable for everyone’s budget. Watching each other open gifts is an easy way to incorporate those festive feels at your holiday office party.

Bonus? This can easily be translated into a digital space. Have your teammates drop gifts off at their giftees’ houses and open the gifts on a Zoom call. 

New Year's Eve-themed costume party - Ring in the New Year with your coworkers by throwing a themed office party! Pick a Friday at work to have an office-wide celebration. The theme can be whatever you decide, or you can opt for a traditional dressed-up party with lots of glitter and sequins.  

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Whether you’re celebrating Halloween New Year’s or Christmas, it’s not a holiday event without delicious food, delectable desserts, and festive drinks. That means bonding over baked goods, mingling over munchies, and snapping selfies beneath shiny streamers. To put a  twist on traditional food and decor options, take a look at some of our favorite ways to eat, drink, and be merry with your office coworkers: 

Food or drink experiences –  Explore options for beer brewing or cooking classes instead to get into the holiday spirit. Then award prizes for holiday brewmaster or best office chef (or worst, if you want to keep the laughs going).

For a more COVID-safe approach, give your team the gift of delivery. Choose a new cuisine or restaurant to try together in the comfort of your homes, or do a digital tasting of cheeses or libations. 

Food outdoor affair – If keeping things COVID-safe is a priority for you and your office, look at options for an outdoor gathering. For a winter-themed bash, consider embracing cold-weather fun with an ice-skating soirée—complete with hot chocolate and, perhaps, even a build-your-own s’mores station. 

Team tastings – Add an air of sophistication and a variety of tastes to your event by organizing a team tasting. Simply provide an assortment of wines, ciders, and beers, along with pairings like dried fruits or cheeses. You and your coworkers can savor the various selections, and share your thoughts on your favorites. 

If tastings aren’t on the menu (or in the budget), try asking everyone to bring a specially-made dish to share. Cakes, entrees, hors d'oeuvres—nothing is off-limits. This not only encourages your team to participate in the party planning, but it also allows them to show off their culinary skills (or at least their skill for finding the best store-bought delicacies). 

Dessert – Dessert doesn’t need much improvement, but to transform your party’s last course into a more interactive experience, consider setting up an ice cream bar, donut bar, or cookie bar. Guests can decorate their favorite treats with icing and other fun toppings, such as Oreo crumbles, mini marshmallows, or gummy bears. In fact, you can ask guests to bring their ideal dessert toppings to provide an even more extensive assortment of sugary options to choose from. 

Virtual cooking class – Despite vaccine rollouts, the world is still braced for any curveballs COVID-19 variants may throw its way. If you end up opting for a virtual affair, spice up a standard Zoom event with a cooking class. Bring on a top-ranking chef to guide a group lesson or make things a bit more interactive by inviting team members to share a how-to for their favorite holiday recipes. 

Party alternatives

Not every office size or make-up is ideal for partying—holidays or not. That’s okay. There are still several ways to celebrate together. Start by thinking outside the box and outside the office to help your company get involved through the holidays and in the New Year. 

Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Volunteer – Meet for a bit of merriment and to give the gift of time by volunteering together. The holidays will provide plenty of opportunities to help your community, and you can decide as a team which causes you’d like to work for. Spending time in service together doesn’t only feel good, but also provides perspective and an amazing way to bring the office together. Not sure where to find local volunteering opportunities? Look to Nextdoor. Neighbors may be posting about them, and local businesses can crowdsource ideas by posting directly into the Nextdoor neighborhood with free Business Posts.
  • Donate – Hold a charity drive leading up to the holiday break. Send out festive-themed updates, and celebrate with gift cards, goody bags, or a paid day off when you reach your donation goal. Employees can vote for which organization to give to or set a monetary target with funds split between several charities, non-profits, or organizations. The more say your employees have, the more involved they’ll be. 
  • Movie night – Movie nights are a simple and relaxing way to join together and share some laughs. You can set up viewing areas in a park, on a rooftop, in a backyard, or even in a rented theater. Projector kits can be found online and come in a variety of price points. Employees can even vote on which holiday movie they want to watch. 
  • Cookie exchange – For both  Christmas and New Year, a local cookie exchange makes for a unique way to spread cheer (and homemade deliciousness). Pick a home base where employees can gather together to show off and exchange their cookie creations. You can incorporate fun decorations, flutes of cider, and a holiday-themed playlist.

This idea can easily be adapted for COVID safety as well. If you’d prefer to avoid a large gathering, there are creative ways to make sure cookies are still on the guest list. Instead of hosting an in-person exchange, coordinating curbside cookie drop-offs could be a fun and tasty way to add a touch of holiday spirit to a socially distanced celebration.

Build up the event for better buy-in

For some, attending holiday events and participating in organizational tasks can feel stressful. But by providing some excitement beforehand, like a countdown ticker or friendly email reminders, you can help get everyone in the mood for fun. You can also ask for drink recipes in group chats or take polls to see what kind of food or games everyone is interested in. Encourage employees to include their families and ask significant others to join as well.

To put it simply, focus on making the holiday a celebration to look forward to, and your team will enjoy themselves all the more.

Just have fun

No matter how you choose to get together this holiday season, as long as you plan with enthusiasm, you’re bound to have a fantastic time. Go into the New Year celebrating with food, fun, and activities. The most important thing is that your employees feel appreciated and rewarded for all their hard work this past year. 

Don’t forget to spread the holiday cheer and share how your team celebrated with your neighbors on Nextdoor. Use your free Business Posts to share behind-the-scenes photos and greet your community with a very happy holiday. 

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Snack Nation. 23 Virtual Holiday Party Ideas For Spirited Festive Fun In 2020. 29 Free Online Team Building Games for Remote Teams (+1 Bonus).

Yapsody. COVID Christmas Party Ideas 2020 For Event Organizers. 

The Escape Game. Remote Adventures Virtual Escape Rooms.


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Claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. For resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers, pertinent news affecting business, and more, follow us at @nextdoorbusiness on Facebook

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