15 Virtual Zoom Holiday Party Ideas To Get Extra Festive This Year

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This year, the CDC recommends people avoid traveling for the holidays or having large family gatherings. This is all a necessary precaution to avoid a family dinner becoming a COVID-19 super-spreader event.

It's disappointing that yet another part of 2020 will be not the same as usual; however, a great alternative — whether celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwaanza, Hanukkah, or even New Years — is to consider a virtual celebration.

Virtual holiday gatherings are really about being apart, but feeling like you’re together. You may be not be physically together, but you can still spend the holidays with the people you love most. The best way to accomplish this is by creating a shared experience.

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15 Best Zoom Holiday Party Ideas

A gathering is about the company you keep, but turning your traditions virtual means doing things a little different. Here are a few great ways to bring everyone together virtually, while keeping this time of year cheerful.

1. Design invites for a virtual party.

Much with an in-person party, a party is not a party until you invite people to attend. Make sure your invitations have all the pertinent info — most importantly, the Zoom link. Just because you aren’t together doesn’t mean it can’t be a fun party.

“Create something festive so everyone knows it's holiday-themed, and dress and decorate accordingly,” says event planner, Kristie Meluso of KM Events. 

To create your invitations to send through email, check out: Greetings Island, Paperless Post, Punchbowl, Evite, and RSVPify.

2. Customize virtual backgrounds.

To make up for less company during the holidays, go all out with decorations for your virtual holiday party.

“Try putting up a holiday backdrop that will greet your virtual guests with immediate cheer,” recommends party planning expert, Shep Moyle, CEO and Chairman of Shindigz.

Plus, if you use a customized holiday backdrop, you can add your favorite phrase or a simple “Happy Holidays” to show off through the camera. Consider these images as your inspiration: Santa's Sleigh Photo BackdropWinter Wonderland Photo Backdrop, or a custom holiday backdrop.

You can also download free virtual backgrounds on: Canva, The Bash, Zoom Background Images, and Minted.

3. Dress to impress.

Nothing will make you feel better than getting out of the pajama/leisurewear rut we've all been in. Instead of staying in your pajamas or wearing an ugly sweater, why not dress for the occasion?

“Throw on your favorite party dress,” says Alyson Campbell, a fashion and lifestyle expert. “Snag a new party dress and snap pics to send to friends for any virtual parties you're throwing in advance. Or, surprise them when you show up on Zoom with your new look.”

4. Send goodie bags to your guests.

Send your guests a swag bag full of holiday time goodies before the Zoom party. This may include items like cozy socks, scented candles, or fun treats. If you're hosting, be sure to put together something truly festive and unique.

Consider some of these gifts:

Boosocki Christmas Buffet Socks

Here For The Burn 'Social Distancing From My Family' Candle

Monogramed Leather Tag

We Are Knitters Dinka Beginner Scarf Knitting Kit

Ostrichpillow Loop Eye Pillow

Lasto Foods Squeezable Peanut Butter

Element Case Black Ops AirPods Case

Sephora Collection Face Mask Magic

Sephora Collection Wild Wishes Soap Set

5. Create a menu of recipes.

“Send a full menu with a recipe guide formatted on Canva so it looks super-cheery and on theme,” suggests Meluso. 

Everyone can have the same meal prepared for the Zoom and dine together. If a full menu seems overwhelming, stick to one dish that is traditional to your group. 

This menu can be shaped to the specific holiday, too. For example, make latkes together virtually for Hanukkah. For Hanukkah latkes, adds Andrea Correale of Elegant Affairs, “Everyone makes their own with a creative spin, and you can have a contest for the most creative latke presentation.”

As for Kwaaza, there are several often-enjoyed foods for the traditional feast, ranging from hoppin' Johns to spoonbread. Perhaps everyone could cook their own spin on these (or other family favorites) Iron Chef-style and compare results. The same can be said for making a Christmas eggnog.

6. Organize Zoom breakout rooms for large gatherings.

In case you're planning to have a large virtual gathering, you can use breakout rooms. You, as the host, can take turns to enter the different breakout rooms and acknowledge all your guests with ease.

“Breakout rooms allow the meeting participants to isolate from the main group and form smaller groups,” says Amy Olson, founder and editor at TheAbsoluteDater.

Creating breakout rooms are very easy, and are as simple as starting an instant or scheduled meeting.

In the Zoom app, click the Breakout Rooms action, and select the number of rooms you would like to create and how you would like to assign your participants to those rooms.

You can also let Zoom automatically split your participants up evenly into each of the rooms, which creates more mingling (or networking, if this is a work holiday party).

RELATED: 10 Simple Things You Can Start Planning Now For A Stress-Free Holiday Season

7. Drink unique cocktails together.

Send everyone on your party list the ingredients for a festive cocktail (or two!) that they can have ready to be enjoyed together on Zoom. This could offer a great opportunity for a holiday toast as well.

To start the evening, begin with a traditional holiday cocktail, like a spiced eggnog or a hot toddy.

Says Correale, “The host or hostess can kick off the night by saying hello to all, while telling all the guests how to make the cocktail. Once everyone makes it, you can begin with a toast and perhaps share a story of your favorite holiday memory via Zoom.”

8. Set up a Secret Santa gift exchange.

It’s not a bad idea to incorporate games and fun activities, so why not host a virtual Secret Santa? 

Be sure to set budget guidelines so no one spends a lot more (or less) than the value of the gift they receive. And keep that budget ceiling low, since many are strapped for cash this year.

Use Elfster to anonymously assign names. That way, everyone can get in on the fun.

“Everyone gets an assigned name and sends a present to that particular person. Have someone dress as Santa and all the guests open their gifts on camera,” suggests Meluso.

9. Don't forget the holiday playlist!

No matter what you do with your holiday Zoom party, remember the spirit of the season and create a playlist.

This can either play in the background on the host's computer, or be a playlist sent to all the guests in the initial invite. Sites like Spotify and Pandora allow group playlists where all guests can contribute their own holiday song choices.

10. Host a virtual cook-off.

You want to keep your party entertaining and unique for your guests, and that could mean doing something fun like a virtual cooking party.

Couples can cook the same dish together as they sip wine and socialize while at home, or guests can compete against one another to see who makes the best-looking dish.

Another idea? Cook a holiday-themed pizza on the grill, where your guests can chat from their own kitchens while they cook. 

11. Have a little interactive fun.

Since not everyone will want to cook, especially if they aren't that great in the kitchen, put something fun together for everyone.

That means creating an interactive experience, like decorating ornaments. Adds Meluso, “Decorating ornaments together can be a really fun virtual activity that brings everyone's creativity out.”

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This can also be shaped to the specific holiday being celebrated. For example, for Christmas, have a tree decorating contest, or the most creative holiday dining table scape.

For Hanukkah, everyone can show their own homemade chocolate gelt, or even a homemade handpainted or designed menorah.

There are also companies that build the interactive fun for you if you aren't feeling too creative. For instance, Pizzatime is a company that delivers a small pizza to everyone in your group, even if they live on opposite ends of the country. And QuaranBingo will set up a bingo game for everyone.

RELATED: 76 Merry Christmas Quotes To Get You Into The Holiday Spirit

12. Break out the party games!

There are so many options for which party games to play on Zoom, especially since you'll be virtual and not in-person.

Holiday Trivia

“In honor of the late, great Alex Trebek, this is the perfect year to host a trivia game, leveraging breakout rooms for small groups to work together to solve the answers,” suggests Evite Celebration expert, Casey Martinez.

If it’s for a company holiday party, ask questions that can’t be Googled; instead, focus on fun facts about teammates that they’ve shared openly. (For example, "Which teammate used to live in Thailand for a year?"). Also consider incorporating a category about traditions for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Show and Tell

A holiday-specific show-and-tell game can be so much fun, and you'll learn things about your friends and family in the process.

“Since everyone’s at home, designate 30 minutes for a show and tell where guests can take turns sharing something meaningful to them that’s holiday-related,” Martinez adds. Perhaps it’s their grandma’s antique glass Christmas tree or an ornament that was passed down for generations.

If participants don’t have anything physical they want to show the other guests, they can use it as an opportunity to share one of their favorite family holiday memories or traditions.

Jackbox Games

Want to keep things sample? Break out old fashioned party games. Consider trying the Jackbox Party Pack 7 ($29.99), which contains 5 new games, one of which being Quiplash 3 with Thanksgiving and Holiday specific themed episodes. It's perfect for turning those awkward family moments into memories filled with laughter.

13. Go dancing or do karaoke... in your living room.

If you're hosting a Christmas or Hanukkah party, dress up as Santa Claus, or have a fancy dress and reward the guest with the best costume. One fun idea for holiday karaoke is streaming lyric videos on YouTube with a program like Watch2Gether.

"Prepare a playlist beforehand and have a virtual dance-off or karaoke. Sing Christmas carols, and have dinner or lunch together. You can also opt for games if your guests enjoy that," says Olson.

14. Party like you're in a night club.

Going to a nightclub is a way to cap off your holiday party. Virtually, of course. 

Eschaton markets themselves as a "new kind of nightlife," and they have a range of performances and a maze of rooms (and secret rooms within rooms) with everything from dancers, drag queens, magicians, and more.

This club was originally slated to debut in March 2020 in-person in New York City, but instead became an online experience. There are game components with hints and clues throughout, and sometimes virtual meets reality when guests are delivered pizzas or contacted via text message.

It's a crazy-fun experience your guests will enjoy, that's for sure.

15. Take your chances with Bingo!

Remember at the 2020 debates when everyone was into online bingo games as they watched? Incorporate the concept into your holiday party by having breakout rooms with bingo, or everyone interacting at once on chat as they play.

Create your own bingo cards and send the PDFs for everyone to use at home. While you can always play for fun, spice things up by playing for prizes like gift cards or dessert care packages.

RELATED: How To Manage Your Kids’ Holiday Season Expectations This Year

Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her.

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