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25th November 2018

6 Alternative Christmas Party Ideas to Shake Things Up in 2018

An office Christmas party doesn’t have to be filled with the same-old monotonous games, standard ‘pass the gravy’ food and awkward ‘who are you again?’ conversation. There are so many alternative Christmas party ideas that can help motivate your staff and make your Christmas party the talking point in the office next year for all the right reasons.

Christmas Party Ideas to motivate employees and increase engagement

A 2015 Reward Gateway survey found that 50% of employees dread the office Christmas party. As businesses attempt to increase engagement and interest from employees tired of standard Christmas party experiences, there’s been a shift towards informal or experiential Christmas parties. A growing trend validated by findings in a Venue Search London survey. Rather than smothering employees with drinks and food, the focus is on experiencing new things together, creating memories – not just hangovers.

Are you ready to get off the gravy train and try something different for Christmas this year? Well, here’s some alternative Christmas party ideas to help you smash those boring bauble induced plans and shake things up this year.

1. Switch things up with An unexpected theme

While it may sound obvious, choosing an unpredictable theme is the quickest way to shake things up. The trick is to break boundaries and resist the temptations to opt for overdone themes like Winter Wonderland, masquerade or yet another Frozen theme. You need to ‘let it go’ (see what we did there?) and be more creative.  Why not try some themes that you wouldn’t typically associate with the Christmas holiday season? To help you get started, here’s some alternative Christmas party theme ideas for you: 

  • Gothic Christmas: dark and brooding colours , this more the Nightmare before Christmas.
  • A winter murder mystery: there’s always room for solving crimes
  • Escape room challenges: Legally lock your employees in a room where they will need to band together to solve the clues and escape.  Think Crystal Maze without the jumpsuits and less climbing or tunnel crawling.
  • Beach party theme: it’s never snowing anyway so why not bring some caribbean vibes to your Christmas party
  • An outback barbecue theme: if you’re office has an outdoor terrace or you have a venue with a sheltered garden then crack out the barbie and string those corks onto your hats. A definite win if you want to shake things up this year.

The majority of us tend to associate the festive season with tinsel, glitter, baubles, reds and greens and some cheesy Xmas tunes, not exactly innovative Christmas party ideas. Although swirls of the festive sparkle always bring vibrancy, the truth is the dark side of Christmas can be more fun. Ghost tours, murder mystery evenings and creepy venues can make the whole experience more memorable, so go bold and stay clear of common yuletide cliche themes.

This doesn’t mean you have to break with tradition completely, the idea is just to add a twist and break free from the ‘norms’. For example, Santa could be Australian or you could even have a Christmas Kangaroo this year instead. Your Christmas tree could be a decorated palm tree for your beach party or hold a piece of key evidence for your winter murder mystery. The alternative Christmas party ideas and theme options are endless and you could even get the staff in on a brainstorm session or ask them to vote with one rule ‘unexpected and alternative ideas only’.  The most ridiculous idea wins. Double motivation for the team to get involved and enjoy the end result.

2. Christmas party ideas: go for an off-the-wall venue

When you think of a standard office Christmas party, you tend to imagine a lavish hotel or restaurant and a very well stocked bar flowing with free booze. If you’ve decided to go with an alternative Christmas party theme then why not go for an off-the-wall venue to match?  For example, an outback barbecue theme isn’t going to work in a lavish hotel and a beach party theme is the perfect opportunity to take things to another level and book a roof terrace or beachside venue.

So, before you or your appointed Christmas party planner books yet another restaurant or bar for your festive celebrations, take a moment to consider alternative options. What about hosting your Christmas party at a museum, a dungeon or an aquarium? There really are so many alternative event spaces for Christmas parties no matter how big or small. Whether you’re planning a sit-down meal, end-of-year prom, champagne reception or a club night.

In particular, there are plenty of Christmas party venues in Brighton and London to choose from. You can find a large space that can act as a blank canvas or discover multi-purpose rooms that enable you to literally layer your chosen theme over it. There’s also the magnificent Earth Halls located in the Natural History Museum or bookable rooms in aquariums, maritime vessels, and underground railways. A location we particularly adore is the London Dungeon. It has a morbid atmosphere that makes it a venue ideal for any Halloween party, but fast forward 2 months to Christmas and imagine the festive mayhem you could cause instead?

Then of course, there’s us. Handmade Mysteries escape games and immersive street games are popular for team building and offer businesses a really unique way to do something different at Christmas, but our games are also based in fantastic pub venues that cater for Christmas parties with excellent menus, well-stocked bars, pub gardens and late night DJ’s.  Our South London venue The Four Thieves Pub not only has two of our escape rooms, they also have VR gaming, an RC racetrack and retro arcade to play with, not to mention a huge pub garden and tantalising menu. Over in East London People’s Park Tavern has crazy-golf, a microbrewery and a hacienda garden. While up in the North The Depot is a renowned foodie’s paradise with a delicious menu and huge range of craft ales. Last but not least, the World’s End in Brighton is a gamers paradise with VR gaming, RC Racing and our Lady Chastity in residence. We now also have St James of Bermondsey in London and The Walrus in London to add to our venue portfolio with the launch of our brand new game Operation Mindfall.

3. Keep it simple with an ugly Crimbo jumper party

Sometimes that feeling of ‘dread’ about an office Christmas party comes from the amount of effort or energy required to get involved. While an Ugly Xmas Jumper party is not entirely unique, sometimes the simple things can be just as effective. This is also a great option if you’re on a tight budget or a potential idea to combine with experiences like our escape rooms. Employees are likely to get involved and actually dress up because jumpers are easy to source. Of course, even ugly Christmas jumpers can be ingenious for staff that want to be a little more experimental. You could even encourage them to create their own or each others with a sewing class in the run up to the party.

One guarantee if you go this route is plenty of selfies. If you have a specific hashtag for your party, have the guests use it to share their pics on Twitter or Instagram. Not only will you have thrown them a fun Christmas party, you’ll also get some great marketing and exposure for your business – promoting employee culture.

4. Go big with an adventurous Team Building Event

In contrast to the simplistic, you could throw caution to the wind and go big with an adventurous escape room centred team building event. If you don’t know how they work already, escape games are basically puzzle rooms. Groups are locked in and have to unravel the mental and physical puzzles and clues to escape the room to win both their freedom and a prize.

Often businesses focus on supplying food and drink, but the best Christmas parties also incorporate a few team activities. One, because it will keep people laughing and engaged. Two, it’s the perfect opportunity to see how staff communicate and work together.

There’s no better way to take your first dip into an experiential Christmas party. Not only that, Handmade Mysteries escape rooms and immersive street games are unique with plenty of surprises to get your staff in the mood for a full night of giggles, teamwork and team bonding.  As mentioned earlier our games are hidden in the depths of pubs in London and Brighton and have the capacity to keep your employees entertained, their bellies full and their thirst quenched. Take a look at our Christmas Parties page to find out more about our games and how you can add an interesting twist to your next Christmas party, there’re still some Christmas dates available.

Handmade Mysteries create escape rooms and immersive games that are perfect for team building. Providing an excellent twist on traditional office Christmas party activities. Here’s a little sneak preview of our newest game that could have you and your colleagues battling it out in a street game with an AR twist, Operation Mindfall (available in London and Brighton):

5. Have a joint Christmas Party

If you have a smaller team then why not band together with some other businesses and throw a shared Christmas party?  By this we don’t just mean booking yourself a table at a pre-planned event in a lavish venue, while this is an option if you want to put in minimal effort. The idea is to get creative and rally the businesses together to create a unique experience. Discuss shared budget input and brainstorm together to using the theme and venue tips we provided earlier for maximum impact. This will enable you to get more ambitious with a shared bigger budget and boost morale for the evening with the opportunity to meet new people and create new memories.

Besides, partying with strangers isn’t a bad thing at all. You never know who you will bump into. New partners, or even new business connections should your networking skills not be able to resist the opportunity.

6. Move the date: Have a  Non-Christmas Party

Who said you have to celebrate Christmas in December? Believe it or not many businesses have had success  organising  a Christmas party during the summer. Some people even hold a 6-month Christmas party, starting Xmas activities from June and building up to a final celebration. While that may be a little much for some, it’s another way to do things differently that’s worth considering. If that’s a bit too much of a leap for you how about throwing your office Xmas party in early January? Giving staff something to look forward to in the new year that will help keep those January blues at bay. Either way, try to plan your Christmas party earlier and hold it mid-November. Most people struggle to make commitments during December with friends and family events taking priority. Not only that availability will free up and venues are likely to be more affordable outside of December.

If you think about it all the good stuff and celebrations tend to land towards the end of the year, so shifting the Christmas celebrations could be a sure fire way to boost morale, shake things up and make some cost savings in the process.

Ready to do something different for your office Christmas Party?

Whether you experiment with differing themes, book a team building experience or simply shift the celebrations into January – try to avoid the temptation to just book a Christmas meal and wear silly hats. You may have no idea what to get for your Secret Santa this year, but you can be sure that everyone will enjoy making new memories and experiencing new things.

If you enjoyed this you might also want to also check out these unusual work Christmas party ideas with a live experience twist. We’ve also recently created a list of 10 quirky pubs with games in London that could tickle your pickle.