With the holiday season comes festive parties, and probably mingling with people you've just met. Whether you're hosting an event or attending as a guest, it doesn't hurt to have a few holiday party icebreakers up your sleeve so you can avoid using the weather as a conversation starter. Thankfully, the holiday season itself can serve as a great catalyst.
Unlike corporate trainings (and the horrible, uncomfortable ice breakers that come along with them) holiday parties are supposed to be fun and give people a chance to unwind. Any ice breaker you opt to use for a holiday party should have that same festive spirit and, ideally, help make even the most introverted person at the event feel comfortable.
If you're still a little worried about trying to mix groups of friends together in one room, or get nervous at just the thought of being forced into small talk with strangers, try to use the holidays as inspiration. Conversation starters are plentiful this time of year, because when else is it normal for a pine tree to be in someone's living room, a man with a red suit and white beard to be a superstar, and candy canes to be considered a delicious dessert? But, just in case you freeze up, here are 15 holiday-themed icebreakers you can fall back on if needed.
1. Find The Ornament Game
Find a novelty ornament that otherwise does not flow with your choice of decor, and strategically hang it somewhere in your Christmas tree. Let your guests know there's a prize for whoever finds it first, and watch as they crowd around the tree and begin chatting with each other as they work toward a common mission.
2. Use The Dessert Table As Inspiration
If you find yourself awkwardly hanging out by the food or dessert table, use it as a way to strike up a conversation with another party goer. Ask them if they've baked any cookies this year or what their favorite holiday treat is. Everyone can agree that holiday treats are one of the best parts of the season.
3. Play A (Clean) Holiday Version Of 'Never Have I Ever'
Gather your guests, or even just a portion of the guests, and play a clean, holiday themed game of "Never Have I Ever." You can say things like "never have I ever peeked at my gifts before Christmas morning" or "Never have I ever seen Elf."
4. Customize Jenga Blocks
Take half of your Jenga blocks and write questions on them, like, "Name your favorite holiday song." Then, as guests play and pull the blocks they have to answer any question they happen across. This gives people a chance to get to know each other without having to actively start a conversation.
5. Have A "Signature Cocktail" Competition
Put out a bunch of ingredients for guests to use to concoct their own "signature" cocktail. Once they've figured out their own recipe, have a taste test to determine the winner. You can even take this a step further and take inspiration from baking competition shows by making them come up with the recipe on the spot with a timer ticking.
6. Community Gingerbread House
Basically, this is the holiday version of a community jigsaw puzzle. Set out a couple of gingerbread houses, icing, candy, and anything else one may need to decorate it and let guests contribute to the final piece. It may end up looking like a hot mess by the end of the night, but it will give people a chance to get to know each other (and probably laugh in the process).
7. Holiday Movie Reference
If you're a movie buff, find a way to slip a classic holiday movie reference into a conversation. This is a great way to transition from small talk into something you're actually interested in.
8. Party Guest BINGO
Before the party starts, come up with a BINGO card for guests to play. In each square write something like, "find someone who is from out of town" or, "meet someone whose favorite reindeer is Comet." Once a guest has found enough to call BINGO, give them a prize.
9. Ask About Holiday Plans
Instead of chatting about the chance of snow, introduce yourself to someone ask then ask them about their holiday plans. Did they travel from out of town, or do they plan to travel later? Are they celebrating with extended family or staying home to celebrate with their kids? This simple question will allow you to learn a lot about the person and will also help you find something you have in common.
10. Find Your Other Half
Before the party, grab some note cards and write the names of famous duos on them (example: Burt on one card and Ernie on another). Toss them all into a hat and have guests take one as they walk in. Have them find their "other half" and give a prize to the first three duos that find each other.
11. Funny Kid Wish Lists
If there's someone at the party who you know has kids but the two of you only know each other through a mutual friend (like the host of the party), ask them what the funniest thing on their kid's wish list was this year. Parents love having any opportunity to talk about their little ones and the conversation will surely grow from there.
12. Play The "Forbidden Word" Game With A Holiday Twist
This game is common at baby or wedding showers - give everyone a clothespin when they enter the party and tell them not to say the "forbidden word" (which could be Santa, holiday, or Christmas). If someone catches them saying that word, they get their clothespin. Then, whoever has the most clothespins toward the end of the night gets a prize.
13. Find Out If They're Traveling This Season
Similar to asking about holiday plans in general, just flat out ask if they're traveling this year. You can make it specific to the holidays or broaden it by asking if they have any vacations or other fun trips planned. One thing to note: if they only have plans to drive to Ohio to see their in-laws, it's probably not a good time to brag about your plan to spend three weeks on the Italian coast.
14. "Ask Me About" Name Tags
Before the party, pick up some "Ask Me About" tags (they look like the "Hello, My Name Is" tags) and set them out for guests to fill out. Have them write things like, "The time I embarrassed myself at my own wedding" or, "My connection to a celebrity." It's an easy conversation starter for everyone involved.
15. Share The Holiday Album/Song You (Embarrassingly) Love
If you're looking for someone to talk to, and some fun music is playing, start talking about whatever song is currently on. Then, break the ice a little more by admitting your embarrassing love for Hanson's Christmas album or The Chipmunk's song. You'll have them laughing with you in no time!