Who doesn't love a Christmas party in September?! A Christmas choir party is a great way to kick off the new choir year, welcome new members, and build community, and a fun way to create some hype around whatever you have planned for Christmas.
My first year as Director of Music at the First Congregational Church in Westminster, MA, I surprised my choir one Wednesday night in September with a Christmas party. I hung up twinkle lights and pulled out a box of Christmas decorations for the tables. We drank hot chocolate, ate Christmas cookies, and played a few hilarious games (see below).
As an aside, for a group that didn't really enjoy spending time together in social settings, this was the start of building community. Within two years, this group of singers became a group of friends who truly enjoyed spending time together.
The next year, I planned a Saturday workshop. I brought in a friend (a professional conductor) to rehearse the group (a great learning experience for all of us), we read through our Christmas cantata, played a few Christmas games, and had a potluck lunch.
Ready to start planning? Here are a few ideas for your next Christmas Choir Kick-Off Party:
Set a date. Choose whether you'll make this an extension of your mid-week rehearsal (and perhaps a surprise for your choir members!) or plan a more in-depth Saturday workshop.
Invite. Invite current choir members and extend an invitation to those you think might be interested in participating, even if just for the short term. Invite everyone to wear something red or green to get them in the spirit. :-)
Set-up. Depending on what you plan to include as part of your Christmas kick-off party, you might consider using the sanctuary or choir room for rehearsal time and fellowship hall or other space for food and games. If you anticipate having any new members, consider having everyone fill out a name tag when they arrive. If you're planning a longer day, you might also have mini water bottles at the door for everyone to pick up.
Reveal. Make a big to-do about your Christmas program and the grand reveal at the party. Pass out packets with music, rehearsal schedule, welcome letter for new members, pencil, and listening CD (if used). Spend some time listening to the music together to give everyone a sense of the whole program and build enthusiasm.
Rehearse. Depending on how much time you have, spend some time rehearsing the new Christmas music together. If you have a longer period of time, balance your rehearsal time by reading some things to get a general sense of the piece and spending some time working on details in a few more challenging sections. If you're planning a workshop day, make sure to include a few breaks for fellowship opportunities, games, devotions, food, etc.
Food and fellowship. Food is a must at any party, but the added benefit is that it provides opportunities for fellowship among choir members. Provide breakfast or lunch or a dessert buffet (depending on the time of day), or turn it into a potluck, with everyone bringing a dish to share.
Guess How Many: Fill a large vase with Christmas ball ornaments - all different sizes and colors. When choir members arrive, have everyone guess how many ornaments are in the vase. Consider awarding multiple prizes to those who guess the number of red or green ornaments, etc. (source)
Humming All the Way: Type up a list of Christmas songs (enough for half of your group). Print two copies and cut apart. Place in a bag and have each person draw a slip of paper (discretely) as they arrive. When you’re ready to begin, have everyone hum their song and start moving around the room. The goal is to find the other person who is humming the same song. Once you find this person, begin singing the song out loud (with words). The first pair to do this wins! (source)
North Pole Relay: Blow up a few dozen balloons. Divide group into two teams. Player must pop 10 balloons using just their hands with winter gloves on. (slightly modified from this source)
Jingle Bell Jam: Player shakes wrapped presents filled with jingle bells to determine how many jingle bells is in each, putting them in order of the most jingle bells to the least. (source)
Snowball Fight: Blow up about 30 white balloons. Divide players into teams of 8-10 and have them stand on opposite sides of the room. Use tape to create a divider line down the middle. Place an equal number of balloons on either side. Players must work to get balloons to the other side of the divider line using only their feet. At the end of one minute, blow the whistle to stop the game. Whoever has the least amount of balloons on their side of the room gets the point. Play until one team has reached 3 points. (source)
Whipped Cream Trees: Give each player 2-3 cans of whipped cream. The goal is to make the tallest whipped cream Christmas tree in one minute. (source)
Snowball Toss: Have players stand behind a designated line. The goal is to toss marshmallow (snowballs) through a Christmas wreath (hung in a doorway) into a bowl on the floor. The player with the most snowballs in the bowl at the end of 1 minute is the winner. (source)
Christmas Paper Plate Game: Pass out heavyweight paper plates and sharpies or pens. Ask players to put their plate on their head and draw the following (without looking):
1. Draw a horizontal line for a floor. 2. Draw a Christmas Tree. Add a garland or a few ball ornaments. 3. Draw a star on top of your tree. 4. Draw a fireplace with a mantel next to the tree. 5. Draw a stocking hanging from the mantel. 6. Draw a present below the tree. (source)
Gingerbread House-Decorating Contest: This works well with a small- to medium-size choir. Divide into groups of four, or so. Give each group a workspace and gingerbread-house-building supplies: graham crackers, empty cracker boxes or milk cartons, frosting, plastic knives, and various candy for decorating (gum drops, nonpareils, twizzlers, M&Ms, pretzels, frosted mini wheats, etc.). Set a timer for 15-20 minutes and let the groups get to work. If you want to take things up a notch, consider appointing an outside judge or team of judges to score the finished houses and choose a winner!
Christmas Shopping Challenge: Wrap several empty boxes and fill some gift bags with paper (more than enough for one person to carry). Have everyone take turns picking up as many presents as they can. Once they have all they believe they can hold, carry them across the room to a designated spot. If they drop anything along the way, it's out. Add up the bags and boxes they were able to successfully carry and return the packages for the next person’s turn. Whoever carries the most across wins! (source)
Christmas Movie Trivia Quiz: Test your movie knowledge with this fun Christmas-themed trivia game! Print this sheet for each choir member and make sure you have a jar of freshly-sharpened pencils nearby.
Christmas Carol Opposites: This one is harder than it sounds! See if your choir members can crack these carol riddles - remember, they're opposites! Consider having choir members work in pairs for this activity. Print this sheet for those participating (first page) and print the answer sheet (second page) for yourself.
Name That Tune - Holiday Edition: Divide into teams. Play the first song for all to hear. The goal is to be the first to shout out the name and artist of the song. The first team to guess the song and artist will earn points for their team. One team could get points for the song and the other team get points for the artist - whichever team shouts it out first. You can also give additional points for knowing if the song is from a movie, Broadway musical, etc. Here is a playlist you can use.
Have you ever thrown a Christmas Choir Kick-Off Party? What were your favorite games or activities?