Office Christmas Party Ideas That Bring Festive Cheer On A Budget

Dec 9, 2019 | Employee Satisfaction

Christmas is around the corner, and for many business owners, that means it’s time to start coming up with office Christmas party ideas.

Making the right party plans can be an overwhelming thought for business owners. What’s acceptable? What’s not? How much will this cost me? How can I make sure the party doesn’t interfere with work? Luckily, you as the business owner or manager can make your office holiday party as simple or elaborate as you’d like.

A great office Christmas party starts with the right perspective. After all, this is the season of giving. As you plan your company’s holiday party, remember that the goal is to reward your team members for all of the year’s hard work and to create a fun experience for your team.

There are plenty of office Christmas party ideas out there, you just have to narrow down what works best within your budget and matches the culture you have created with your employees.

Start By Determining Your Budget

You can have a great office Christmas party on any budget, but it’s best to start by knowing how much you have to spend. Then, ensure your plans fall within your allotted budget for the party.

Worry about the details after you’ve determined how much your party budget is. Next, we’ll share some holiday party ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Take the ideas that fit your business and budget best, and use them to design the perfect Christmas party for your office.

Related: Low-Cost Employee Benefits For Your Small Business

1. Have A Themed Christmas Party

You may want to jazz up your office Christmas party by having a theme. Deciding on a specific theme is a great way to add a little extra fun to your office party. Theme ideas can range from silly to extravagant.

The Ugly Sweater Christmas Party

Ugly sweater parties are more in style than ever. And luckily, you can find ugly sweaters everywhere. If employees don’t have one in their closet, they can shop at the local thrift store or big box store.

You can jazz the party up by having prizes for different categories: Ugliest Sweater, Most Creative Sweater, Sparkliest Sweater, Best-Themed Sweater.

Top it off with Ugly Sweater cakes or cookies and other sweater-themed foods.

A White Elephant Christmas Party

You can’t go wrong with a White Elephant party. The popular idea works like this:

  1. Each team member brings a wrapped gift. Typically the gifts are either funny or weird. However, it’s okay to put a really awesome gift in the mix too.
  2. The gifts are set in the middle of a circle and numbers are drawn to determine choosing order. You can do it dice-game fashion too.
  3. When the first person gets a gift, they open it for all to see.
  4. Subsequent “winners” can choose a gift from the unopened pile, or steal from someone who already has a gift.
  5. The gift exchange ends when you say it does: you can set a time limit on exchanging or take a gift out of the lineup after it’s been stolen three times.

A White Elephant party can be a great way to bring some extra laughs to your office Christmas party.

Check out this list of great White Elephant gift ideas.

Throw A Christmas Masquerade Ball

Are you looking to do something more formal for your holiday party? How about holding a masquerade ball? You can do this at your home, your office, or you can rent a space for the evening.

Your masquerade ball can be in the traditional formal format, or you can have a masquerade party that’s a little more casual. The only true requirement is that everyone wears a mask. Search online for costume ideas and other masquerade party suggestions.

Here’s a list of ideas for some cool masks.

Have A Retro Game Night Party

Looking for a more casual Christmas party? Why not do a game night? You can have retro board games available for play, such as Scrabble, Clue, Trivial Pursuit, Trouble, or Aggravation.

Or you could track down a few old Nintendo or Atari systems and do an electronic retro game night. Employees can play Pong, PacMan, Mario Bros., Tetris and more.

Another option is to rent classic stand-up video games like you’d see in an arcade. Then provide your team members with endless amounts of quarters. Serve some classic game night appetizers and desserts, and you’re done.

Organize A “Do Good” Party

A “Do Good” Christmas party is a party where you spend your time making the world a better place. For instance, you could volunteer to serve a meal at a homeless shelter. Or pack meals for third world families at a company like Feed My Starving Children or a similar organization.

If the weather’s warm, you could clean up at a local park. Another idea is to hand out office-made meals to the homeless in your area. You could also hand out socks, gloves, hats, and coats to make winter more bearable.

What about contacting the local domestic violence shelter about sponsoring a family or donating gifts?

There’s no limit to the ways you can make your city a better place. And what better way to bond with your employees than to make a difference in the world?

Related: Using Workplace Wellness To Boost Morale And Productivity

The Great Bake-Off Christmas Party

How about celebrating Christmas with a bake-off contest? Each employee can bring in their favorite homemade baked goodie, or you can double up and have them bring in their favorite Christmas side dish or appetizer too.

You provide the main dishes and let your team members battle it out for Chef of the Year title. Don’t forget to have cooking or kitchen-related prizes and ribbons for participants.

Classic Movie Marathon Party

Another option for a casual party is to have a classic movie marathon event. You can hold this at the office or at your home if you have space. There’s no end to the classic movies you can choose from.

Work to select titles based on the age and personalities in your group. Here are some ideas.

Classic Christmas Movies

  • A Christmas Story
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  • Elf
  • The Polar Express
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • A Christmas Carol
  • The Santa Clause
  • Scrooged

Looking to stay away from Christmas-themed movies? How about these ideas?

Classic Non-Christmas Movies

  • A John Hughes movie marathon: (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Uncle Buck, Weird Science, Home Alone, etc.)
  • Oldies but goodies: Citizen Kane, The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Quiet Man
  • Retro action/comedies: Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, The Princess Bride, The Goonies, ET, Top Gun, Star Wars, Caddyshack, Beverly Hills Cop

Have team members vote on a theme or share their favorite classic movies. Or search the net for more classic movie ideas.

You could even encourage employees to come dressed according to the movie theme you choose. Top it off by serving food that fits the event.

2. Have A Christmas Party At The Office

If you really want to save costs, you can have your party right at the office. The great thing about having a Christmas party at the office is that you can do it during work hours or after work hours. This means you won’t have to pay to rent a separate space or prepare your home for guests.

Holiday time is a busy time of year for most everyone. Holding your Christmas party at the office can often be much easier than hosting off-site.

Team members can plan on simply staying after work for a few hours, or you can plan your party during office hours. You can invite spouses to join or designate your party for employees only.

Invite team members to help you decorate the office a few days before the party. Put up festive lights and other decorations to help get your team excited about celebrating the season with their office friends.

You can bring in food for the event, make it a potluck, or do a combination of the two.

3. Host A Christmas Party At Your Home

Years ago I worked for a large mortgage firm. Our office branch consisted of my manager, Steve, and about six other employees. Steve and his wife always hosted a beautiful Christmas party for us and our spouses at their home.

They decorated their home for the season and provided fabulous food and drink. They’d get appetizers, a main dish, and desserts from the local high-end grocery store.

Christmas music would be playing in the background. The guys would often go down and play pool in the basement family room. The girls would talk and laugh in the living room.

Steve and his wife did a great job of making us feel cherished with this simple but elegant event.

If you have the capacity to host your office Christmas party at home, it can be a great way to create a comfortable experience that ensures your employees feel like family.

4. Celebrate At A Local Restaurant

If you’re looking for a Christmas party with minimal work, why not celebrate at a local restaurant? Most restaurants have party rooms that can accommodate up to 20 people or more.

A restaurant location for your Christmas party means you and your team can relax and socialize while restaurant employees do all of the work. You can choose to have your party at the local bar and grill or choose a specialty restaurant that serves a particular style of food.

For example, you could celebrate at the local Indian restaurant, a popular Italian place or a fondue-style restaurant. If it’s in your budget, you could enjoy your Christmas party at a high-end restaurant that serves more elegant dishes.

If you choose to celebrate at a restaurant, try to choose a place that’s convenient for most of your team members. Accommodating the varying palates of your team members is important too.

For that reason, you may want to get employee opinions before choosing a restaurant. Give them a choice between three different restaurants and let the majority opinion win.

5. Have An Event-Related Christmas Party

Another option could be to have an event-related Christmas party. You could celebrate with a trip to a daytime event at the local orchestra hall or theatre.

How about celebrating by getting a suite for a local hockey or football game? Or heading out to an upcoming concert? Check your local city social website for upcoming events in your area, and buy tickets for your employees.

Now that you’ve got some ideas for where and how to celebrate the holidays with your team, it’s time to think about the little details that will make your Christmas party extra special.

Think Big

If it’s in your budget, you could always plan a more elaborate Christmas party. For instance, you could plan a night at a nearby casino–complete with hotel rooms for each employee.

Another idea would be to go to a fancy restaurant or to a resort for a weekend getaway. If profits were really high, consider throwing a simple office potluck and then surprising your team members with large bonus checks.

In short, look for opportunities to make it a party they won’t soon forget.

It’s The Little Things That Count

While big events and gifts are always fun, it’s important to remember that the little things count as well. Gestures that simply show you care can make a huge difference.

Leave a funny or personalized mug on each employee’s desk. Pay for lunch to be brought in. Close the office half a day early one day. Get little, inexpensive gifts for team members’ children or pets.

The point is to let them know that you care about their well-being–and not just about their productivity at the office.

Finding The Perfect Employee Gifts

Giving gifts to your employees is a great way to say “thank you” for their commitment and hard work. You can give a great gift on any budget. However, it’s important to choose a gift that ensures your employees feel valued.

Under $25 Gifts

It might be tough to find gifts in this price range, but we’ve got a few ideas.

  • Gift cards to inexpensive restaurants or coffee shops
  • A personalized item such as nameplate or picture frame
  • Monogrammed items
  • Handmade soaps
  • Creative food items from local craft fairs
  • A gift certificate to the local candy store
  • Specialty oils or other items from high-end kitchen stores

Again, the thought you put into the gift is what matters most. In other words, did you choose something that says “You matter to me”? You can check online at sites like UncommonGoods for more creative gifts under $25.

$25 To $75 Gifts

If you have a bit more to spend on your employees, consider these gift ideas.

  • Food gift boxes–chocolates, meat, and cheese, or other food gift ideas
  • A gift card to a local big box store or restaurant
  • A Christmas dinner box with ham, side dishes, and desserts (hint: shop the sales)
  • Gift certificates to the local movie theater, or create a movie-at-home gift basket
  • Cash

$75 And Over Gifts

  • Gift cards to nicer restaurants or big box stores
  • Cash (cash always pleases)
  • Tickets to a sporting or other event
  • Paid time off
  • Electronic gadgets

If you can, personalize the gift for the employee. For instance, if you’re getting everyone gift cards try to choose gift cards from stores that match the interest of the recipient.

As an example, your voracious reader gets a gift card to Barnes and Noble. Your tech-savvy employee gets a gift card to Best Buy. This will help cash-based gifts feel a little more thoughtful.

Don’t Forget The Personal Touch

And the personal touch is important as well. Whether it’s planning the menu, choosing the venue or buying the gifts, be sure it’s evident that you are thinking about every employee when planning the event.

Add other personal touches too. Send a personal Christmas card to them from you or your family. Give them a heartfelt “thank you” before you close down for Christmas. Or leave a handwritten “thank you” note on their desk.

Just be sure they know how much you appreciate all that they do for your company.

Be Respectful Of Other Religions

Respecting the varying religions of the employees who work for you is important but it’s okay to celebrate Christmas at your office Christmas party.

Or, you can call it an office holiday party and include other religious celebrations such as Hannakuh and Kwanzaa. However you do it, be sure to be respectful of employees who may not celebrate, or who may practice different religions.

Only you can decide what it means to respect your team members’ beliefs, but it’s important to consider that as you plan your party.

Having an annual office holiday party is one of many popular employee benefits most workers truly enjoy. With a little thought and planning, you can create a Christmas party that balances budget and enjoyment.

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