If there’s one thing my wife and I love, it’s hosting a dinner party around Christmas. We enjoy gathering loved ones around us during some of the longest and darkest nights of the year, bringing warmth to the table, clinking glasses, and raising spirits. It’s a burst of brightness.
Still, hosting a dinner party can be a high-wire act. You need the right combination of great food, lively guests who get along, and stuff to do. Once the plates are cleared and people are sighing with satiation, it’s common to play games. If your crowd expects it, you better be ready.
Luckily, there are some great dinner party Christmas games that’ll put the jolly in your holly. These games are fun, community-oriented, filled with laughter, and present a chance for your guests to get to know each other better.
Dinner Party Christmas Games for Groups of Any Size
There are a lot of different types of games to play at dinner parties depending on what kind of group you have. Here are some of our favorites.
Icebreaker games are great if you have a mixed crowd, like coworkers and friends, or neighbors and family. We’re firmly in favor of having “worlds collide,” as this will make for more interesting conversations.
But these icebreaker games are also fun for people who have known each other for years. You can always learn something new about somebody.
- Lightning Questions. Lightning questions are perfect for office parties, but you can do them at home, too. Come up with several rounds of questions from easy (“Favorite city?”) to harder (“Do you believe in love at first sight?”) to the absurd/philosophical (“If dogs could talk, would they be interesting?”). Make enough questions in every round for every guest. Each person will be asked a full set of questions and must answer rapidly. See how people’s minds work on the spot, learn about them, and prepare to laugh like crazy.
- Life Auction. Here, people are given a hypothetical $1000 and can bid against other players on important attributes they want to possess. Would you put $500 on the power of persuasion? Or $250 on the ability to survive in the woods? Or would you put most of your dough on being super smart? Have fun with this! Maybe you can be rich but then you have to live somewhere terrible. You can be attractive but only to people with annoying laughs. Be as deep or as silly as you want.
- Autobiography Words. Simply come up with some words, ideas, or places (for example, “basketball,” “Spain,” or “nostalgia”) and have a guest talk for a minute about what that thing means to them. It might be a memory, a dream, an idea, a fantasy—anything. You’ll learn things about everyone, even people you thought you knew like the back of your hand.
A confession: I stopped playing board games for years. I didn’t understand why people wanted to bring them out at parties. Weren’t those for kids? I even frequently teased my friend Laramy about playing them every weekend.
I was wrong. When my wife and I started playing more games, I remembered how fun they were, and now I love playing them with friends. Turns out Laramy was right! Who knew?
Here are some of our favorite board games for dinner parties:
- Game of Thrones Clue. I love Clue. I loved it as a kid, I love it now, I love the movie. Watching it goes well with any Halloween party games. But the Game of Thrones version adds a special twist, especially in winter. It’s cold. There are ice kings and direwolves… and you never know who the bad guy is. (Except that it’s Joffrey. It’s gotta always be Joffrey, right?)
- Codenames. In Codenames, you have to work with your team to “find the spies” using complicated word clues. It’s more than just having a good vocabulary; you have to know how your partner thinks and the connections they might make between words. It’s fun to play this in conjunction with icebreakers. After you get to know somebody, how well will you know their mind?
- Salad Bowl. Okay, this doesn’t have a board, per se. But you put names in a bowl and teams have to work together to guess them by getting clues from one team member (kind of like Charades). The clues could be famous people, historical figures, or just people you know. It’s fun to see how your friends describe people, and you can keep making it harder as rounds go by (i.e. no proper names, only five words, etc).
Of course, it is Christmas. It’s time to exchange gifts. Here are some ways to make it a game:
- Yankee Swap. Some people call it White Elephant. Some people call it Dirty Santa. Whatever you call it, this game is filled with intrigue, back-stabbing, plotting, furious counting, and, of course, a ton of laughs. There are a lot of Yankee Swap ideas, but they’re all fun.
- Secret Santa. The Secret Santa rules are pretty basic: you randomly get matched to a partner and buy them a gift. As such, you need anonymity. You need good gifts. You need people who are willing to act innocent when their giftee stares them down, searching for any hints. This is a holiday classic that will never let you down.
Some Secret Santa Notes and Tips
If you decide to include Secret Santa as part of your dinner party festivities, there are a few other considerations to keep in mind:
- You can still play other games! I love Yankee Swap, but it can take a really long time. A Secret Santa swap is a pretty defined chunk of time, as everyone only gets one turn. So, you could also do ice breakers and board games on the same night. You don’t have to pick just one game!
- You can pick a theme! Maybe you want a geekdom theme, a sports theme, or even a spooky theme (we don’t discriminate when it comes to holidays). It helps to use gift guides to make it easy to select items that fit the theme.
- It’s easy to plan in advance! If you use an online Secret Santa generator, the whole game comes together quickly. The right generator chooses names, connects players, helps you create lists, and lets you buy right from your partner’s wish list. It makes everything easy (and surprising!) for everyone, even the organizer.
A good Christmas dinner party is about spending time with each other in front of frost-covered windows. The games you play only make that more real. They bring you together. They create a community of laughter and sharing. They make you feel full of love even after the memory of the meal has faded.
At Elfster, we want to help you host the perfect Christmas party. Our online Secret Santa generator makes it even easier to run games your guests will love. Start a Wish List today, and don’t forget that you can now play reindeer games on an iPhone app or Android app.
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