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Holiday Party Activities

Yankee Swap: There are many versions to this game. Make sure guests know about it ahead of time. Any number of people can play, just so long as they’ve brought a gift that costs no more than the previously agreed-upon amount. Draw numbers from a hat to determine swap order. The person with the No. 1 will choose from the tree first, No. 2 goes second, etc. The person opening the gift will show it to the rest of the company, and may choose either to keep that gift or trade with someone with a lower number. Often, the person with a No. 1 will have the last pick.
 
White Elephant: This game is like a Yankee Swap, but these gifts are generally extremely tacky or don’t fit the tastes of the recipient. 
 
Holiday trivia: Create your own pub trivia night, but make the questions fit the holidays. 
 
Holiday karaoke: St. Pierre’s idea; maybe your kid’s video game has a holiday rendition, but if you look on YouTube, there exist a number of holiday songs presented in karaoke style, with background music and lyrics that light up as you sing them. “All I Want for Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Where Are You Christmas,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Blue Christmas,” etc., are all accounted for. Blast this up on your computer or TV and add a mike.
 
Scavenger hunt: Koutrobis says these are great for all sorts of parties — corporate gatherings, large parties, intimate parties — though they work best when prizes are involved. Create different teams and create a list of items each team needs to find. These could include general things — a lighter, a napkin, something red — or holiday items, like holiday jewelry, a Santa hat, a bell, etc. First team to come up with all of the items wins.
 
Holiday fishbowl: Without the holiday theme, this game is called Salad Bowl, Bowl of Nouns, Fishbowl, etc. All you need is a bowl, pen, paper and a group of people. Have each participant write a word or phrase that has to do with the holidays on different slips of paper and stick them in the bowl. Split everyone into two teams.
The first round is like Taboo. Each team will be given 30 seconds. The person “up” will describe the item on the slip of paper without saying it. Once teammates guess, the bowl is passed to other teammates, who will describe the items and guess until the time is up. However many words/phrases the team guessed during that 30-second period is how many points earned that round. These 30-second rounds will alternate between teams until all the slips of paper are gone.
The second round is like the first, except the words are acted out instead of described. (This will be easier because everybody has heard the words.) Teams have 30 seconds, and normally someone on the other team will time. 
During the third round, the person “up” must describe what’s on the paper with one word that is not the word on the paper; again, everyone has heard what’s on the paper twice now, so it’s easier. Alternate between teams, tally up points, and make sure each team has gone an even number of times. Highest score wins.
 
Holiday movies: Tape or drape a Santa hat on the top corner of your TV screen and watch a movie (holiday-related or not). Every time the hat lines up with a person’s head, take a drink.
 
Holiday races: Split into teams; who can fill stockings with Christmas candy the fastest? Who can wrap an assembly of boxes with holiday paper the fastest or decorate a Christmas tree with an assortment of items, or wrap someone up as a snowman with toilet paper the quickest? 
 
Holiday playlist: 
Hippo staff favorites 
Hippo staff shared the holiday tunes they’d want to hear at a party.
 
• “Hard Candy Christmas” by Dolly 
Parton (Ashley McCarty)
• “Last Christmas” by Wham! (Ashley McCarty)
• “Christmas Waltz” by The Carpenters (Ashley McCarty)
• “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by Brian Setzer Orchestra (Kristin Crawford Rehm)
• “Christmas in Hollis” by Run D.M.C. (Kristin Crawford Rehm, Roxanne Macaig)
• “Santa, Baby” by Madonna (Kristin Crawford Rehm)
• “Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of this Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued” by Fall Out Boy (Joshua Rosenson)
• “Snoopy’s Christmas” by The Royal Guardsmen (Allie Ginwala)
• “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan (Allie Ginwala)
• “Dominick the Donkey” by Lou Monte (Allie Ginwala)
• “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” by Gayla Peevey (Doug Ladd)
“Christmas is the Time to Say • ‘I Love You’” by Billy Squier (Charlene Cesarini)
• “Christmas Wrapping” by The 
Waitresses (Charlene Cesarini)
• “It Must Have Been the Mistletoe” by Barbara Mandrell (Charlene Cesarini)
• “This Christmas” by Macy Gray 
(Charlene Cesarini)
• “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano 
(Charlene Cesarini)
• “Christmas Song” by Mannheim 
Steamroller (Charlene Cesarini)
• “Merry Christmas, Darling” by The 
Carpenters (Charlene Cesarini)
• “Blue Christmas” by Elvis (Charlene Cesarini)
• “O Holy Night” featuring Troy 
“Trombone Shorty” Andrews (Michael Witthaus)
• “The Rebel Jesus” by Jackson Browne (Michael Witthaus)
• “Winter Wonderland” by Darlene Love (Michael Witthaus)
• “River” by Joni Mitchell (Michael Witthaus)
• “Father Christmas” by The Kinks 
(Kenny Duquet)
• “Reindeer” by The Knife (Kenny Duquet)
• “Blue Christmas” by Bright Eyes 
(Kenny Duquet)
• “Soulful Christmas” by James Brown (Roxanne Macaig)
• “A Great Big Sled” by The Killers 
(Roxanne Macaig)
• “Don’t Shoot Me, Santa” by The Killers (Roxanne Macaig)
• “Christmas at the Zoo” by Flaming Lips (Roxanne Macaig)




Entertainment value
How to keep the crowds having fun

12/18/14
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



Decorations, themes, food and drink — all these things are pretty essential for a good holiday party. But if you really want your guests to stay, you need to give them a good reason.

“You want people to stay and have a good time,” said Mike Koutrobis, a New Hampshire DJ and comedian. “A lot of times, people are going to parties out of obligations. They have dinner, say hi and fade away. If you do something to make the party last longer, the more people will stay and the more fun it’s going to be.”
The Hippo talked with Koutrobis, event planner Emily St. Pierre and DJ Joey Dion about how to keep your guests entertained from start to end with music, games and entertainment.
 
In the mood with music
Even if there’s no dancing at your party, you’ve got to have music to heighten the holiday mood. But choosing the right tunes, said Dion, founder of Londonderry’s Main Event Entertainment, can be difficult.
“There are so many different genres and tastes out there,” Dion said. “If possible, play music that casts a wide net. Make as many people at the party comfortable and happy [as possible]. … When you go to a party, you want to have fun, and music will motivate a crowd to do that.”
Choose songs by current artists’ Christmas albums in all genres. Dion says people constantly ask for Michael Buble but still appreciate old-school renditions by Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley. 
How can you tell if your guests are enjoying it? Look to see if people are tapping their toes or moving to the music. And look at your guests’ reactions when you start a song; Dion calls this something of a DJ Jedi mind trick.
“When DJs first start a song, they throw a glance out at the room. People will look at you [the DJ] when they like the song you’re playing,” he said.
When in doubt, cast throwbacks. Think about what the big bands were when your guests were growing up, and find those Christmas albums.
“When you have a group of adults, go the more nostalgic route. It’s going to bring up childhood memories,” said St. Pierre, who runs the Concord-based event planning company All the Fuss Events. “I grew up in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and whenever I hear the New Kids on the Block holiday mix, oh my gosh, it reminds me of when I was 7. … Most popular bands have a Christmas album, and it’s just about tracking down those Christmas songs people haven’t heard in a long time.”
 
Games and entertainment
“When you’re planning a party, you want elements people are going to remember. There’s decor, food and beverages. … But the parties people are going to remember are the ones they laugh and have a good experience at. You can have flowers on the table, but if it’s boring, they’re going to go home,” St. Pierre said.
When she’s planning parties, St. Pierre considers what guests might have gone through in order to attend — did they make a long drive? Did they hire a babysitter?
“Play games, adult games maybe people haven’t played in a while. Something like trivia or something more current, like Cards Against Humanity, which is a big trend in fun party games,” St. Pierre said. 
Games act as icebreakers and allow for easier interaction between guests who don’t know each other.
Many holiday-specific games exist, but you can also add a holiday twist to traditional ones. (Our box here provides a few ideas, but for more, Google will not disappoint.)
Want to make certain your guests will actually want to get involved? Add prizes into the mix. 
“Everybody wants something for free. If you want something decent, you’re going to get someone to [play the games],” Koutrobis said. 
Gift certificates are king, and of those, Koutrobis says Dunkin’ Donuts, Apple and Visa gift cards are best. Give the best prizes out at the end.
“You don’t want to do everything right off the bat or people will leave. You want to stretch it out,” Koutrobis said. “If you’re giving away the big present at 10 p.m., people will be like, ‘Aw crap, I can’t leave before 10 p.m. now.’” 
 
As seen in the December 18, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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