By Claire Hannum

With pandemic anxieties easing and friends and families feeling safer to gather, this holiday season is shaping up to be the biggest in years. For your company, that means rising to meet the occasion by ensuring your holiday party is one for the books. But a fun party doesn’t have to be stressful or complicated; it’s all about helping the team laugh, connect and make memories. Whether you hold an in-office gathering, an off-site adventure or a formal ballroom party, each type of event is the perfect opportunity to create an event they’ll love. Here are some ideas to try.  


Invite your team to relive their childhood with a cookie decorating activity. Offer your team pre-baked sugar cookies and invite them to deck them out however they please. Provide an array of different shapes, icing colors, sprinkles and more so they can lean into their artistic vision. The holidays bring out strong opinions about the “right” way to decorate cookies (ahem, usually the way each person’s mom decorated them) so encourage a bit of friendly competition over the best method.


Provide your team with bare wreaths and an assortment of ribbons, ornaments, tinsel and other baubles. Encourage them to decorate, then have each participant vote to choose the best wreath of the bunch. Have your team take their wreaths home or make arrangements with a local charity for them to donate their creation to someone who needs extra cheer.


Ugly sweater contests have become a seasonal staple in recent years, and for good reason: they’re just too much fun!

Ask guests to arrive in their ugliest holiday sweater — the gaudier the better. Whether it’s a creepy embroidered Santa face, a cringy print or even real ornaments and blinking lights stitched to the sweater, encourage your team to go big. Then have them compete for who has the most garish of the bunch. Hand out prizes or even mini trophies to the best of the best.


Take your potluck to the next level ­– and make it feel more like an adventure than a chore — with themes. Assign each department or team to a different type of food, and encourage them to work together on coordinating their dishes to that theme. Topics could be broken down by stage of the meal — appetizers, mains, side dishes and desserts — or could be regional cuisine from different parts of the world. Another option is to assign each team cuisine associated with a different holiday. For example, one depart- ment could bring Kwanzaa recipes, another could bring Hanukkah treats and another could bring Danish Christmas staples. If your team is cooking shy, you could even provide a catering budget and task them with choosing the local restaurant and dishes that best match the theme.


Whether they’re at a wedding reception, birthday celebration or holiday party, everyone loves a good photo booth. Stock it with festive seasonal props like hats, signs, and Santa beards, and many guests won’t be able to resist stopping by for a snapshot. The best part? They’ll have prints to take home as mementos of the celebration.


Break out the gumdrops, candy and frosting for an adventure in gingerbread craftsman- ship. Encourage participants to think outside the box as they put together their tiny architectural creations, and offer a tour of the gingerbread “neigh- borhood” so participants can see their coworkers’ designs.


Escape rooms come ready-made with all the ingredients needed to bring a group together: unique set- tings, teamwork, and a whole lot of fun. Employees will work together in a totally different way than at the office, and they’ll leave the experience feeling more connected than ever.


Work with a local charity to “adopt” a family — or several — facing financial hardship this holiday season. Work together as a department before the party to choose gifts based on the family’s holiday wish list, and then dedicate a portion of the party to a festive gift-wrapping session for the family.


For a memory guests can keep forever, offer ornament decorating. Start with classic round ornaments that can be adorned with embellishments, wooden designs that can be painted or clear hollow ornaments that can be filled with decorative treasures. Then offer up festive baubles and paint that can be used to make each creation unique. Groups may even want to finish the activity with an ornament exchange so they can celebrate one another’s creations.


Send your team on an epic adventure with a custom scavenger hunt across your city — or even within the walls of your office. You can even incorporate company inside jokes or slogans to make the experience extra personalized. Do the whole hunt as a group or create small teams for some competitive energy!


Bring music to the party in whatever form best suits your team’s personality For the most traditional, carolers add an air of magic and presence to any holiday celebration. When they walk into a room, people can’t help but stop what they’re doing and listen. If your team is more of the high-energy type, you can mix things up by hiring a DJ who can deliver seasonal jams with top hits as employees hit the dance floor. They can even emcee party games and shout-outs to bring extra laughs and memories.


Get to know your city’s local flavors with a food crawl through town. Stop by local gems, hole- in-the-wall favorites and lesser-known eateries that even locals might not recognize. If your city hosts any holiday markets, this would also be the perfect time to visit for some bites and bonding. You can create the crawl with a tour guide or DIY it, and can customize your adventure around your team’s favorite food theme. Whether it’s street eats, pastries, pizza or a whole new cuisine they’ve never tried before, nothing brings people together quite like food