by Devin Carver , November 30th, 2021

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Ugly sweaters. Office “Dundies.” White elephant parties. Secret snowflake gift exchanges. Yearly competitions. It’s probable that your workplace, much like your family, has a holiday tradition of some kind. Office holiday parties can provide an opportunity to build traditions and rituals that have benefits well beyond the holiday season.

For example, at Bishop-McCann, we have developed some fun traditions, including some we’ve already mentioned. A driving force behind our parties is our goal of finding ways to demonstrate and embody expressions of our core values, such as playfulness. As a result, our holiday parties feel less like a company office party and more like a family gathering (without the anxiety, fighting, and tears, of course).

By embracing tested traditions and exploring new holiday ideas, you can invigorate your office party and reap the benefits. 

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The History of Office Holiday Parties

Holiday parties and rituals are as old as time, and there are good reasons that we look forward to them every year. No matter how much our individual worlds change during the year, there is a sense of comfort in returning to the structure, continuity, and predictability of our traditions that creates the opportunity to reconnect and renew bonds with family, friends, and community. These experiences help us keep memories of the past alive while giving us the opportunity to pass them on to younger generations.

This, in part, is the origin of office parties. They were seen as opportunities to build and establish business legacies, climb the corporate ladder, and leverage social connections into career moves. In fact, many HR professionals would strongly recommend against missing the office holiday party.

In the 1950s, the office party was more than just an opportunity for informal conversation, drinks, spousal introductions, and finger foods. Popular culture representations demonstrate clearly that there were two forces at work for office parties: to elevate one’s status either socially or professionally. For the career-minded, it was a chance to network. For others, it was a chance to form new connections.

Why Office Holiday Parties Are Still Important

Traditions are not reserved for the holiday season or just for families. Businesses certainly capitalize on our primal needs of belonging and togetherness by establishing traditions and rituals into their corporate culture, communications, and engagement. When it comes to extending that to your customers, partners, and employees, many corporate conferences and meetings resemble family reunions in many respects. They give attendees a similar sense of anticipation, structure, continuity, and connectedness.

As with all opportunities to gather when business isn’t the priority, opportunities for connection across teams still exist, as does the potential for creative collaborations and ideas. Further, it’s an opportunity for supervisors and team leads to learn more about their teams, potentially uncovering hidden talents, strengths, or experiences.

Additionally, a successful and memorable holiday office party will keep guests coming back year after year, resulting in a direct and profound impact on brand equity, employee and/or stakeholder satisfaction, and ultimately, sales and profits.

If employees see the party as a reward or recognition rather than an obligation, your company can reinforce positive feelings. Reframing the party in this light could change the minds of the nearly 50% of respondents who noted they don’t want a party.

Finally, after a couple years of office events held via Zoom (if at all), many offices are returning to holiday parties, albeit with a few modifications in mind. Still, for many employees, this will be a welcome break to remote work or respite from a year that has tried so very hard to feel normal. In short, this year’s celebration may be seen as more of an opportunity to connect and unwind than it has in the past. 

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Ten Corporate Holiday Party Ideas

Still, in today’s climate, everything seems to be changing more rapidly than ever. That means that the experiences and activities that make a holiday party special become harder to plan. Traditions are even more difficult to create and maintain, especially with all the changes COVID has introduced in the office. That’s where Bishop-McCann comes in.

For over 20 years, we have been planning and producing the most productive, inspiring, and rewarding meetings, corporate events, and celebrations for some of the world’s most recognizable and enduring brands. As with the best of the holidays, we take a family-gathering approach to delivering experiences that match and meld history, traditions, vision, and values. This allows guests to leave their worries behind and connect with your brand, mission, purpose, and objectives while renewing and building relationships within your communities.

1. Make it mobile - Rent a party bus or van and have your staff do a tour of holiday lights or displays.

2. Winter-themed costume ball - We know it’s just a few months from Halloween, but why does that day get all the costume fun? Imagine a winter wonderland with the opportunity to dress up (masks and formal wear) or be a bit more creative. 

3. Holiday bonfire - Ditch the indoors, and gather everyone outside for a bonfire! This is a non-traditional route that might add some excitement.

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4. Cocktail or cookie contest
- Teams or individuals can participate in a contest to deliver the most creative (and tasty) cocktail or cookie. 

5. Holiday brunch - Rather than sprucing up for an evening out, dress down for a morning in. From a brunch bar to mimosas or bloody marys, you’ll keep everyone entertained and give them their evening back.

6. Holiday movie marathon - Have the office vote, and then do a double feature of the office’s favorite holiday films. Think hot cocoa (regular or spiked), cookies, and more. 

7. Volunteer time - Take it out of the office, and spend the day volunteering as a group, followed by a drink at a local happy hour. You can even have your team vote for their favorite volunteer opportunities!

8. Food truck rally - Hire a few local food trucks to come to your office parking lot and bring the party outside! Employees will be pleased with the variety, and you won’t lose money on catering waste. 

9. Let’s get cooking - Organize the opportunity to take a cooking class where your office or team will be able to sit and enjoy what they’ve made afterward. 

10. Winter Olympics - Complete with an “athlete village” (food, drinks, areas to socialize), organize an Olympic competition, whether you interpret that as traditional “office” games (wastebasket basketball) or tests of skill/athleticism at a local gym or sports facility.

The goal here really is to take the holidays out of the box and find ways to engage your employees. Keeping them active and providing more than just food and drinks can pay off in big ways.

Just as holiday rituals ultimately serve to strengthen family ties, we help craft and guide experiences that do the same for our clients. Whether it’s finding a space to create the perfect setting for the special event or a fitting gifting experience to mark the occasion and appreciation, we can bring the best of holiday and family traditions to your next important gathering.

We look forward to talking and working with you in 2022. Please be sure to share your holiday party experiences and New Year’s celebrations with us when you do! We wish everyone all the best for a healthy and happy holiday season with your loved ones.
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