5 ideas for hosting a virtual Christmas party

Laveta Brigham

(Getty Images/iStockphoto) This time last year, we would have been dancing till dawn with our boss and fighting our way to the front of the queue for the free bar (with a stomach full of mini burgers). But in 2020, the work Christmas party has been doomed to Zoom. Despite […]

 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

This time last year, we would have been dancing till dawn with our boss and fighting our way to the front of the queue for the free bar (with a stomach full of mini burgers). But in 2020, the work Christmas party has been doomed to Zoom.

Despite a four nations agreement that allows families to meet in “bubbles” between 23 and 27 December, a stricter tier system than we saw in October will stay in place for the rest of the holidays, and this means harsher new rules for hospitality businesses.

While pubs and restaurants can open in tier 1 – a level bestowed to just three areas in England: Isle of Wight, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly – those in tier 2 regions can only do so if they provide a substantial meal and those in tier 3 are permitted to offer just takeaways.

But, you don’t have to let a little thing like a pandemic completely get in the way of this year’s celebrations. Companies across the UK are now taking end-of-year festivities online.

But after spending much of the year on video calls, many of us growing tired of the extra screen time, so you’re going to have to pull out all the stops if you want to organise a festive bash to remember.

Thankfully, there are a number of ways to execute the obligatory annual jamboree in the virtual sphere. From festive baking and online crafting to virtual escape rooms and wine tasting, here’s how to throw a great online Christmas party.

Bring on the booze

One for those who fancy celebrating the festive season with a few drinks, why not kick off the celebrations with a virtual trip to the pub.

While you could just choose a cocktail recipe that participants can mix themselves at home, there are a number of brands which have launched ready-made cocktail kits, including The Drinks Drop.

A company that works with bars in London and Manchester, The Drinks Drop creates delicious cocktails sealed in handy pouches, popped in a letterbox-friendly box and delivered nationwide. Boxes start at £19.50 and include two, six or a bespoke amount of cocktails and you can choose between beverages like a plum negroni, watermelon margarita or espresso martini.

Alternatively, you could sign up to a cocktail-making class from Chelsea-based bar GOAT or a virtual wine and cheese tasting session courtesy of The Cheese Bar. For the latter, participants will need to buy a cheese box in advance, which will include five cheeses, crackers and paired wines. A box for one person is £18, or £32 with wine pairings. A box for two people costs £28 or £50 with wine pairings. You’ll then be sent a zoom link to join the virtual tasting with The Cheese Bar’s Head Cheesemonger, Sam.

Christmas crafts

If you and your colleagues are creative types, we suggest organising an arty together with a night of crafting. If you want to keep costs down then why not organise a competition where guests have 20 minutes to create the best Christmas scene from items they already have in their home. Like Art Attack, but on a smaller scale.

If your employer has some money to spend then why not sign up to an online wreath making workshop where attendees will get the opportunity to create a door wreath. Hackney-based florists Grace & Thorn are hosting workshops for £95, and will provide you with everything you need to create a DIY masterpiece and share their tips and tricks. Elsewhere, artisan florist Fierce Blooms will give you a step-by-step guide on a Christmas garland and tablescape using home-grown seasonal blooms (£35).

If flowers aren’t your thing, looks to Sculpd – a company that offers virtual pottery classes, in which you’ll learn how to make clay pots or vases. Attendees will be sent kits beforehand, and during the session a resident potter will explain the techniques you need to know. The clay used is air-drying too, which means your team will be able to paint and seal their pieces at home.

Festive bake off

If the Great British Bake Off is usually the hot topic of conversation at the photocopier then look no further than Bake With a Legend, which organises online lessons with your favourite star of the Channel 4 show. You choose what you bake and which star you’d like to bake with, then you log in on Zoom as a group to learn some top baking tips and make something delicious.

You can also order a full refrigerated recipe boxes with all the necessary ingredients for your bake for £45 per person including delivery.

Alternatively, you can order a biscuit-decorating kit from Biscuiteers and decorate your own biscuits over Zoom or attend one of the London-based boutique’s icing workshops which are taking place throughout December. It costs £85 to attend and you will be sent a a kit through the post filled with a collection of un-iced biscuits and an array of icing colours and sprinkles.

Artisan bakery Bread Ahead is also running e-baking masterclasses throughout December, where you can learn to make everything from mince pies and Yule logs to festive doughnuts. The sessions last around two hours and cost £10 per person.

Online karaoke

Love it or loathe it, karaoke is a steadfast way to host a party that will be remembered, so channel your inner Mariah with an at-home alternative.

Lucky Voice, which has a number of venues in London and Brighton, has launched a virtual service. All you need to do is nominate a host to download the company’s Online Karaoke Player, while all other guests simple need a decent WiFi connection and access to Zoom. You can then select from thousands of songs, the lyrics to which will appear on your computer screen. The Online Karaoke Player costs £6.99 a month, or you can get a free month’s subscription by entering code SINGONLINE.

Alternatively, you can download the Smule singing app, which allows you to sing a solo or team up for a duet or a group session. The app offers more than 10 million songs to pick from, across multiple genres, and you can even sing alongside your favourite artists like Demi Lovato and Jason Derulo. The app is free to download but you can sign up for an annual VIP subscription, which costs £33 and gives you access to more music, unlimited solos and no adverts. Download for iOS here and for Android here.

Party games

If you’re looking for an alternative to Zoom quizzes, there are a number of games you can play online, including classic board and card games. Almost all have an online equivalent which allow players to join friends including Risk, Uno, Cards Against Humanity and Monopoly.

Who in the Room? can also be played in person or online. There are 330 questions to ask each other such as, “who in the room would survive the least amount of time on a desert island?” or “who in the room has the best voice for radio?”.

Fill your Pants is another option worth considering. The scavenger hunt-style game involves players racing around their homes to collect things described on the game cards. Once the items have been located, they must be stuffed into giant pants ( which come included). The first player back to their place with the items in situ wins.

A popular go-to for team-bonding outings, escape rooms are now establishing themselves in the digital sphere. Harry Potter fans will be pleased to hear about this Hogwarts Digital Escape Room, which available for free, while Trapped In The Web offers five themed rooms, each with its own storyline, clues to crack and puzzles to complete.

The Panic Room is another experience that has taken its offering online and involves taking on one of seven challenges. Then there’s the Digital Murder Mystery Co. You can pick a theme for your party – such as 1920s Paris and Vintage Circus – before sending off interactive digital invites to guests. The starting price is £275 for 12 players and £5 for more. Guests are sent information on each character and their backstory, motive and clues, as well as fancy dress tips.

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