Wouldn’t it be fantastic if, just once, your friends and family could put away their smartphones and tablets and get together for some group fun? It is Christmas after all, right? Adding a few parlor games for Christmas party instant action is exactly what you need.
Truly, parlor games are the simplest and easiest party games EVER. You won’t need any props (and if you do, they’re dead simple). Their rules are not complicated. Anyone of all ages and backgrounds can take part. You can play these games indoors or outside. They bring on the laughs quickly and easily and you will have plenty of photo-worthy moments.
And we can thank the Victorians for making our festive lives easier. At the time of their reign, home entertainment was popular especially around Christmas. Victorian families loved singing songs around the piano, putting on mini plays and having friends do silly things, hence inventing a whole bunch of insane parlor games for Christmas party revelry.
Let’s get stuck into our favorites.
Parlor Games For Christmas Party Mayhem
Charades is a classic game you might already know. Before playing, write out a massive list of well-known activities, film titles, book titles, objects and places, then cut it into strips and jumble in a hat.
Divide everyone into 2 or more teams. A player from the first team has 30 seconds to act out as many strips from the hat as they can using only mime for their teammates to guess. Players must not speak; anyone who does loses 2 points for their team. When the time is up, the next team takes their turn.
Choose some to leave the room while everyone else sits together in single file. The returning player aka “the messenger” re-enters and says to the first person in line, “My master sends me to you, madam (or Sir)” to which they must reply “What for?” The returned player now answers “To do as I do” before performing some weird gesture or dance move that the “madam” or “Sir” must copy.
This person then turns to the next player in the queue and says “do as I do.” This instruction works its way down the line. But the game doesn’t end there.
Anyone who messes up the performed gesture is out of the game. The messenger can leave the room and return to either end of the line and start a new round with a new announcement “My master sends me to you, madam (or Sir).” He or she can create any performed gesture as complicated or as silly as they like.
To start this game, pick someone to blindfold while everyone else hides around the room. The blindfolded person is spun on the spot several times and once done works their way around the room trying to catch someone. Each time they do, they try and guess the name of the person they’ve caught.
If they’re successful, they swap places and a new game begins. If they guess wrong, the current game resumes until they’ve caught someone.
This game tests your players’ attention skills by asking them to do the exact opposite action to what you ask them to do. If you command them to walk, then everyone should stand still. If you instruct them to “lift up your right arm,” then they should lift up their left. Anyone doing the exact action you’ve instructed is out of the game.
To throw players off kilter, you can speed up your commands or give them a rapid sequence of actions. Last player standing is the winner.
You will need a paperback dictionary (no phone app versions) to play this game. Each person uses the dictionary to look up a word, then writes down its definition along with 2 fake definitions.
Everyone takes it in turns to guess which definition is correct; the player is awarded a point for each person he/she fools. The dictionary is then passed to the next player. The person with the most points at the end of the entire match is the winner.
For example: what is a dodecahedron:
- A shape with 12 faces?
- A plant with yellow leaves?
- An athletic contest consisting of 10 track and field events?
This game can get quite rowdy so is perfect for bringing energy to the room. Two players are blindfolded in this game, where one of them is the deer and the other is the stalker. The deer and the stalker are carefully taken to opposite ends of a large table by everyone else not taking part.
The game is played around this table: the stalker has to catch the deer and the deer has to evade the stalker, but both of them can only move using directions given by the crowd.
String up a white tablecloth or bedsheet along one half of your living room, then place a stool on one side and a lamp on the other. Pick someone to sit on the stool and direct them to face the cloth. Make sure the lamp is switched on and can cast a good strong shadow onto the cloth.
There are 2 ways to play this game. In the first version, players take it in turns to create a shadow of an object for the person on the stool to guess. If a guess is correct, they swap places, if not the game continues.
In the 2nd version, players must create a shadow of themselves against the cloth so the other person can try and identify the player. The “shadow player” must do everything they can to not be so easily identified, e.g. Stand a certain way, bend their limbs, do a weird contortion, turn up their shirt collar. Again, anyone whose identified swaps places with the guesser.
This game is a staple at many a party. You need a maximum of 10 players and a set of pre-written index cards with a letter on one side. Only one card has M for Murderer, only one card D for Detective, while the remaining cards have V for Victim. Shuffle the cards, then everyone picks a card; make sure they keep it face down and to themselves.
Whoever is the detective now has to work out which player is the murderer. The murderer picks off his/her victims with a subtle wink; whoever dies must declare “I’m dead” before placing their head on the table. The game ends with all the victims dead and the murderer free or the murderer caught.
The game also ends if the murderer kills the detective without realising it.
To play this game, the only props you need are items from your pocket or bag, such as a coin, your phone or a pen. Show everyone the item, then ask them to leave the room before hiding it somewhere.
After they’re called back, your guests need to go look for the item without talking as they do. As soon as someone spots the item, they’re to sit down immediately where they are and say nothing.
The last person to locate the item loses the game and becomes the next person to hide a new item.
If you love words and rhymes, this is the game for you. The game is played with 2 teams. One of the team chooses a secret word, then tells the other team a word that rhymes with their secret word. The other team has to guess what that secret word is by acting it out. Give this team 3 attempts to guess the word.
More Parlor Games For Christmas Party Fun
Thus Says The Grand Senor
Nominate a person to stand in the middle of the room. Every time this person makes a movement, he or she must preface it with the command “thus says the Grand Senor,” in order for everyone to copy it.
However, if he/she says “So says the Grand Senor,” players need to stand still. Anyone who moves when he says “So” or does not follow him/her when the command starts with “Thus” has to pay a forfeit.
This parlor game is all about memory and can be played in 2 versions. As the host, put together a tray filled with different small objects. In both versions of the game, players are shown the tray and must memorize what they see before the tray is covered with a cloth.
In the first version on the game, remove an object from the tray. When you remove the cloth, the first player to call out the missing item is the winner. Return the object to the tray and cover it before removing a new object.
In the 2nd version, players must write down as many objects as they can remember seeing on the tray. Whoever has identified as many correct objects as they can is the winner.
This is one of our top favorite parlor games for Christmas party fun, one that goes down well due to its innate silliness. Get everyone standing a metre apart and make sure they’re as still as possible like a statue. Move around the group and tweak people’s poses, by adjusting their arms, head, leg or torso.
Everyone should stay in their new pose for as long as they can without breaking formation, laughing, giggling or moving. Anyone who breaks their pose is out of the game. The last person standing wins.
This game tests players’ skills in identification and guesswork. The starting player is blindfolded and points a wand towards another player. The wand could be a cane, an umbrella or a similar long object. The blind player needs to identify who the person on the other end is based on this person’s voice. If they guess correctly, then both players swap roles; if not, they point the wand at the next person.
The person speaking can vary their accent however they like, their objective is to stay in the game and not get caught. This game is a version of Blindman’s Bluff.
In this game, the starting player is asked to think of a person, place or thing, and then everyone else tries to guess what it is, by asking questions with yes/no answers.
Each round ends if the thing is guessed correctly before the 20 questions are used up or if the 20 question limit is hit. You can make the game harder by setting a time restriction for the question round.
I Have A Basket
Get everyone sitting or standing together in a circle. The game begins when the starting player says “I have a basket” and the person to their left asks “what’s inside?” The person to their left has to name something beginning with A, then the person to their left names something with a B and so on. Anyone who can’t think of a word with the letter they’re given leaves the game.
You can play this game in different ways: asking people to name general items you’d put in a basket; fruit only; canned items only; food items for a dinner party; vegetables only.
This game is so simple and cool! Get everyone sat together around a table. Each player takes it in turns to say “Ha”, “Ho” or “Hee”. Anyone who starts laughing as soon as they do is knocked out of the game. Keep going until everyone’s out. The person who keeps a straight face the longest is the winner.
Pass The Slipper
Get everyone sat in a circle then pick someone to sit in the middle and close their eyes. While their eyes are shut, ask the group to pass a “slipper” (could be a shoe or a wallet) from person to person and behind their backs.
When the player in the middle opens their eyes, the passing should immediately stop, and the player needs to guess who is holding the “slipper.” If they guess correctly, they swap places; if they get it wrong, they close their eyes and the passing resumes.
Nominate someone to be the judge and ask them to leave the room. Ask everyone in the room to place a personal item they own into a bag or a box, e.g. A watch, a pen, lipstick, a phone.
The judge then re-enters the room and selects an item blindly from the box. Whoever is the owner of the items needs to identify themselves. The judge then assigns them a forfeit.
Common forfeits can be: to sing a song, perform a tongue twister, do a weird dance, or pretend to be an animal. Forfeits last for 60 seconds, before a new item is chosen from the box.
Reverend Crawley’s Game
This game is best played with 8 or more people. Get everyone standing together in a circle. Each person must hold hands with another player, only these hands cannot belong to a person next to them nor can they hold hands with the same person. What you want everybody to create a giant human knot.
How does the game start? It pretty much is a free-for-all. Once the group has become a knot, they must work out how to untangle themselves without anybody letting go of the hands. Be prepared for lots of contorting, twisting, and laughing. Hopefully by the end of the tangling, you will all end up in one or 2 circles of people.
The Ball Of Wool
Have everyone sat around the table and place a piece of wool rolled up into a ball in the middle. The game goes like this: together, everyone starts blowing at the ball, trying to drive it away from themselves and towards someone else.
If the ball of wool falls near to the right side of a player, that person needs to pay a forfeit such as dancing on the spot, doing a tongue twister, singing a nursery rhyme, etc. Although this game sounds easy, things start taking a harder road as players start to strain from all their blowing during the match.
You can substitute the piece of wool for a feather in another version of this game. This time, players must work to stop the feather near them or on their clothes or suffer a forfeit.
Squeak, Piggy, Squeak!
This is another version of Blindman’s Bluff, where a blindfolded player is once again spun around in the middle of the room.
Everyone else needs to be sitting on a chair in various parts of the room. The “blindman” places a cushion on someone’s lap, sits down on it and says “Squeak, Piggy, Squeak!” The chosen player now has to squeak, then the blindfolded person tries to identify who they are. If their guess is correct, they swap places for a new game, otherwise he/she resumes around the room.
You need a large sheet of paper and a pen which you give give to the starting player. Start the game by announcing “Who?” and asking this person to write a sentence about a made-up person. After 30 seconds are up, they must fold the sheet of paper to cover up their sentence then pass it to the next person who will write a sentence based on your next announcement “Met who?”
The sections of this story are: Who, Met Who, Where Did They Meet, They said…, They replied, What bad thing happened. When everyone has filled in their consequence – or ending – unfold the story and take it in turns reading it out.
Out of this list of parlor games for Christmas party fun, you will need specific props, namely a piano, guitar or a stereo player with volume dials. One person is chosen to leave the room, while everyone else comes up with an offering to be made to one of their group.
After being called back in, this person is given a tiny hint of what they are expected to do. Let’s say they were told to “make an household offering to a certain gentleman,” first of all he must go up to a guy in the group and guess the offering to be made, for example, sweep the floor or fry an egg.
The musical part of the game is this: when they re-enter the room, the person with the instrument (or standing by the stereo volume dial) must start playing at. Each time the guesser approaches the right gent, or does the right offering action, the music gets louder; if they get further away from the gent or the task, the music gets softer. The guesser must keep aware of the music, as it will help them find their target.
Set a time limit for this game, where the guesser gets 3 attempts to succeed before making a guess on the target gent and the offering.
One person is selected to be king or queen and takes a seat in the middle of the room, while the rest sit around the edges. Everyone needs to copy whatever movement is made by “the monarch.” Movements can include yawning, sneezing, blowing their nose, bowing, jumping, anything they like, either one at a time or in rapid succession.
If any of the courtiers laughs, does the movement or talks, he or she gets a forfeit before leaving the game.
Long before television, Netflix and the internet, it was parlor games for Christmas party entertainment that brought everyone together after dinner. If you’re wanting to your friends and family to unplug from their screens, but don’t know what to replace them with, look no further than this list, they’re still the real deal for Christmas antics more than a hundred years later.