In early September, I walked into a retail store, and there, just past the plastic pumpkins, was Christmas: wreaths, bows, Santas and snowmen. It was a reminder that holiday parties are just around the corner.
The internet is packed with advice on how to shake up the Santa season. But how your company or organization marks the holidays should be less about what’s touted in Martha Stewart Living and more about what your audience will most enjoy. Here are a few ideas to get your plans ho, ho, ho-ing along.
Pick an activity that’s up everyone’s alley.
A holiday party can be a good time to level the playing field with an activity anyone can do. Bowling is perfect. About 50 million Americans bowl at least once a year, and the sport requires little athleticism or training. One of its rewards is seeing who will shine, and it’s often the person you’d least expect.
Bowling alleys are also winners because they come with food and drink — nothing fancy, but grub that everyone usually enjoys. Teams that combine different departments can help build camaraderie; you could also build external relationships by inviting clients or suppliers along. Prizes can be creative: most original bowling form, for example. If your company is based in a place where winter is warm, you could play miniature golf or croquet, or visit an arcade.
Nothing holds a candle to holiday flicks and food.
The holidays are nostalgic, and movies, music and games are good ways to evoke memories of good times. When the audience is multigenerational, set up two or three minitheaters where films from different eras can play on a loop. Station food and drink nearby that tie to the movie’s theme. For example, pair the classic “A Christmas Story” with a Chinese buffet, lit by a “leg” lamp. Or serve shepherd’s pie and trifle for those who want to watch “Love Actually,” a holiday favorite set in London. For a more interactive evening, collect the most popular board games from each of the last three or four decades, set them up in different corners of the ballroom and add food and music that was popular in each decade.
Give time and assistance to others.
Those who are blessed with so much find satisfaction in helping others, especially during the holidays. Housing organizations often enlist groups to paint or winterize homes for the poor or senior citizens on fixed incomes. The Salvation Army and other service organizations always need donations of food and toys — often, groups can play Santa by fulfilling a needy family’s Christmas wish list. Or, your group might ask a local school how it could pitch in to help — maybe the answer will be helping to build a playground or painting a mural to brighten a boring wall.
One last thought — Christmas in January?
I came across this idea in several places, and it makes sense for multiple reasons. The short window between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always packed with activities and obligations. Why not turn your “holiday” party into a “Hooray for 2019” celebration? By waiting until mid-January, you’ll improve attendance, give your employees and staff something to look forward to, probably save money and make some venue very happy to have a booking in that always-slow first quarter of the year.