Science supports the idea that leisure activities and play connect to whole-person well-being: In many indirect ways, joyful and playful leisure experiences support overall emotional, mental, physical, social, and even financial well-being.

These experiences can reduce stress and improve our ability to cope with life challenges; support social connections, build social networks and enhance a sense of belonging; help us recharge and rejuvenate to prevent burnout; enhance creativity, problem-solving skills and overall cognitive function; boost immune function, improve sleep and reduce overall risk for illness.

Whether you’re hosting this season or looking to attend your next gathering with a few creative ideas in your back pocket, check out these fun ways to celebrate the holidays!

  1. Santa-Beard Contest – No facial hair required! Challenge loved ones to create their own Santa beard on their faces with shaving cream without using a mirror. Once done, snap some photos and vote with secret ballots! Have a prize or gift for the winner and some towels for cleanup on-hand!
  2. Wrapping Relay: See which team can wrap the fastest, neatest or most elegant gift in a designated time. Make it challenging by requiring that one arm remain behind the back! For the actual gifts in the box, consider choosing a family or organization you’ll donate to and further enhance the overall value of your time spent together!
  3. Gingerbread House-Hunters Competition: See who (or what team) can create the most show-stopping gingerbread home! Start with pre-built kits to minimize mess and focus on creativity. Consider setting a timer and have an anonymous vote with a prize winner after.
  4. The Holiday Box Game: Wearing oven mitts, challenge participants to take turns unwrapping a giant box (with boxes wrapped within boxes!). The player behind them rolls two dice until they hit doubles – requiring the person unwrapping to stop and pass the oven mitts forward. Whomever reaches the inside of the final box gets a prize of your choosing (cash, lotto tickets, anything that won’t break when jostled around during the game!).
  5. Santa Hat Follow-the-Leader: Either provide a Santa hat for all guests or request them to wear one to your gathering. From the start, designate one secret guest to be “the leader” – they will remove their hat stealthily during the party. Once this person removes their hat, it’s up to all other guests to notice and follow suit. The last guest wearing a hat loses. You might have a little challenge for them to keep the fun going!
  6. Blindfolded Crafting: See who can come the closest to crafting a recognizable holiday character with their eyes covered by a winter scarf or soft material! Grab a couple inexpensive kid’s craft kits (for simplicity) or have guests draw on paper. Have a treat for the winner!
  7. Ornament Raffle: Ask guests to guess how many ornaments are hanging on your holiday tree. The closest to the true number wins a prize or gift of your choosing!

A few more ideas include: leading a “favorite-things” gift exchange (participants purchase and gift three of their current favorite must-have low-cost items – all placed on a table, guests take turns selecting three random gifts), hosting a holiday brunch (this way no one has to worry about compromising sleep from staying up too late visiting), having a winter bonfire (it’s not a typical go-to, which would make it a unique treasured experience), offering a hot-cocoa bar (don’t forget the fun toppings like peppermint and marshmallows), or instating a PJs-only dress code!

We wish you and your loved ones a happy and healthy holiday season!


“27 Fun Adult-Friendly Christmas Games Perfect for Any Holiday Party,” Annie O’Sullivan and Marissa Lascala,, Oct. 10, 2023.

“50 Best Christmas Party Ideas to Celebrate the Happiest Season of All,” Erin Cavoto,, Aug. 29, 2023.