10 Holiday Activities that are Far More Fun than Drinking!

Friends create a memorable Christmas selfie.

At any big family gathering, it seems like there’s so often one or more people who drink a little (or a lot) more than they should. As the evening wears on, these individuals get louder and more embarrassing. Sometimes a sober partygoer will take one of them aside and recommend a little temperance. But once a person is drunk enough to need advice, they are usually not in any condition to accept it.

And then there could be other people in the room who are trying their hardest to avoid the alcohol that’s being passed around. Maybe it’s for health reasons or maybe they’ve had trouble with alcohol in the past. It’s hard to stay determined when mugs of spiked eggnog and hot buttered rum are being pushed into your hands.

Eventually, you have to ask yourself—do the holidays really have to include alcohol?

Of course they don’t. It’s simply a habit—many people have the expectation that alcohol will be served at holiday parties.

Now ask yourself this: When you picture a warm, fun, loving holiday event with family and friends, is anyone in that picture inebriated?

Probably not. What’s more likely is that the family and friends of your imagination are engaged in holiday activities, maybe playing games or singing together or just enjoying a chat.

Downplaying the alcohol and playing up the fun can increase the intimacy and interactivity of your holiday event. Here’s ten ideas for ways to make that holiday gathering so memorable that no one will even miss the alcohol.

1. Do you have a karaoke machine?

You can easily find songs for Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Eve or just the winter season. Motivate your guests to participate by offering silly prizes for best, worst or most inspiring performances.

2. Challenge the artist in each person.

Supply tables with a varied selection of objects—aluminum foil, ribbon, string, construction paper, tape, etc. Let your guests separate into groups and give them ten to fifteen minutes to turn the objects into something artistic. At one party, the winning table created an astonishing Nativity scene out of aluminum foil and cotton balls and then sang reverently when it came time to reveal their creation.

3. Board games never lose their appeal.

It seems that board games will never lose their appeal. One reason is that there are always new games on the market. Plus there are so many classic board games. Stock half a dozen, have tables at the ready and then usher people into board game mode at a specific hour. You can even offer a few inexpensive gifts to the winners, just to make it more fun.

Crafting a wreath for the holidays.

4. Create holiday wreaths.

From late November on, you should be able to acquire discarded evergreen branches from Christmas tree lots. Pile them up on a big table along with wire to make frames, berries, ribbon, bows, small decorative glass bulbs, holiday figurines and other bits of holiday decorations. Bring everyone in and have them create their own wreaths. They can take the results home with them or make the party house extra-festive this year.

5. Are you in a military family or are some members first responders?

Invite your guests to write letters of appreciation to soldiers or first responders. Organizations like Operation Gratitude or A Million Thanks will help you deliver the letters. Provide writing paper and pens and check out the instructions from the group that will pass your letters on before anyone starts writing. Even young children can participate in this activity by drawing pictures.

Cooking holiday party cookies.

6. Bring out the baking dishes.

Invite your guests to make cookies or cupcakes, supplying the ingredients and bakeware. You can make your party even more inspirational by delivering the finished products to a homeless shelter or nursing home afterwards.

Alternately, challenge your guests to make the best-tasting, silliest or most beautiful baked items and offer small prizes.

7. Holiday charades.

Yes, people still play charades at parties! There’s few activities that will get people laughing harder (and thinking less about drinking)! You can choose songs, books or movies featuring gratitude for Thanksgiving, new beginning or meetings for New Year’s Eve, or simply specify wintery or snowy themes.

8. Decorate the table before dinner.

Do you have several children who might be bored by adults watching television while dinner cooks? Invite them to create the centerpieces for the tables. Provide small pumpkins, tangerines, greenery, ribbons, candles (unlit, of course), plastic figurines and other small decorative items. Have a few pictures of table decorations on hand to give them the general idea of a centerpiece. Photo by Alfaenergy/Shutterstock.

9. Go on a Christmas lights tour.

Local newspapers will usually publish a list of the best neighborhoods for Christmas lights. Circle the ones convenient to your location and make copies. Before dinner, tell everyone you’re going out at a specific time to check out the lights. Pile everyone into a few cars and enjoy the chill in the air and the sparkly lights.

A family goes caroling at a neighbor’s house.

10. Go caroling for real!

Is one of your group musical? Could they accompany carolers with a guitar or other portable instrument? Supply your group with lyric sheets and Santa hats, give them a run-through or two before you go and then regale your neighborhood with your music! Try it right outside your door and then at a couple of neighbor’s homes. Your group might enjoy this activity so much they refuse to quit! Have some hot chocolate or non-alcoholic cider ready to warm everyone up when they get home.

Best Wishes

Activities like these (and a million more you can think up or research online) create memories, gratitude, togetherness, warmth and love, not hangovers. Every activity also gives your group something to talk about, which can draw out the shyer members among you.

You have our best wishes for a healthy, happy, fun and safe holiday season for you and your entire family.


Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.