The lively tradition of activities that encourage competition, wit and belly laughs has continued since Charles Dickens revived the Industrial Age's sagging Christmas spirit. He did so with the publishing of his 1843 novella, "A Christmas Carol," which recalled the mirth and merriment of Scrooge's antithesis, Mr. Fezzywig. In continuing the tradition of "keeping Christmas well," plan a lineup of puzzles and games, bolstered by holiday snacks and spirits. For gift games, set a maximum price limit so that everyone can afford to participate without embarrassment. Alternatively, make the gifts white elephants or homemade creations. Keep ages in mind when selecting prizes.
Christmas puzzles will gain a new respect from kids and adults when you ditch the ready-made word games and create Christmas puzzles online, customized for the players' skills. Puzzlemaker at Discovery Education lets you create and print. Use Christmas phrases and words in puzzles such as Double-Puzzles, Cryptograms and Hidden Message.
Create jigsaw puzzles online, using your own photos -- in this case, Christmas photos of course -- think family-around-the-tree pictures, a Nativity or for jigsaw geeks, a dazzling field of snow. Among the many free-to-use jigsaw puzzle websites listed at Gizmo's Freeware is Jigidi, where you create puzzles that others site members try to solve.
Another puzzle that will have guests replacing their Santa hats with their thinking caps involves creating a parody of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" by Clement Clark Stone. Keep the first line: "Twas the Night Before Christmas." But with subsequent lines, erase the rhyming words such as "house" and "mouse." Teams then fill in the blanks with other rhyming words. These can be silly, but they must make sense in the context of the parody they complete. Work in teams or partners. Read aloud when done. Award the funniest, most creative and most poetic offerings.
Classics With a Yuletide Twist
Charades, performed Christmas-style, can be hilarious -- think of a football player pantomiming the sugar plum fairy, for example. In addition to the "The Nutcracker," use Christmas movie classics, songs, stories and other traditions. For equally outlandish merriment, play a Christmas adaptation of the costume relay. To play, have teams line up; when the caller says "Go!" the person at the lead of the line for each team races to the team's box and puts on everything in the box, runs back to the line and takes off the items, handing them to the next person who dresses up, runs to the box and repeats. For a twist on the game, use elf costumes, complete with pointy turned-up shoes -- or another Christmas costume that appeals -- the funnier the better.
"I Didn't Know That!"
An adaption of the Business News Daily's Co-Worker Trivia encourages party guests to get better acquainted. Guests bring wrapped or unwrapped gifts. Setting the gift on the table, each guest writes a little-known fact about himself and drops the paper into a Santa hat. Coming up with a little-known fact is more challenging for gatherings of family and close friends, but it can also work at home. The game host draws a paper, reads the trivia fact, and the first person to get it right selects a gift from the table to bring home with him and sits out the rest of the game. Everyone goes home with a gift.
Also suggested by Business News Daily, Holiday Cheer Exchange is an easy game, no matter how well you know each other. Each player brings a wrapped gift and holds it. The host instructs everyone to stand up who -- fill in the blank with something like "decorated the tree already" or "buys their pets presents" or "loves walking in the snow" or is "wearing red." Those standing up exchange their gifts, and the game continues until everyone has swapped presents. The more meaningful the description, the better chance that the gifts exchanged will suit each participant; the point of the game is to break the ice. The gift-swapping continues until all gifts are exchanged.
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