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During the pandemic, the holiday season has been notably different. Strange how that can feel a bit like a downer, as if the typical stress of the holidays would be a welcome distraction.

Instead of feeling down about how things aren’t how they normally are, those of us fortunate enough to have our families under the same roof or readily available for video chat should take a moment to savor it. As important as it is to take the state of the world seriously, it is equally as important to laugh and play and share.

Games can be a great conduit for transporting us, at least for a little while, into a safe space and remind us of how the simplest activities can induce pure joy. Well, we can have a huge collection of holiday games at the ready. It’s just a matter of reimagining the games we already know how to play.

1. Would You Rather…?

Most of us are familiar with “Would You Rather…?” The concept is simple. Two seemingly undesirable scenarios are proposed, and the participants must choose which of the two they would prefer, offering up a small explanation of why. It quickly becomes a holiday game when we make the scenarios themed: Would you rather get secondhand underpants or dirty socks as a stocking stuffer?

2. Pictionary

Pictionary is one of the games that got it right from the get-go. A pencil, paper, and agile minds are all that are necessary for fun to ensue. Holiday Pictionary is as easy as coming up with a list of holiday phrases, songs, movies, or characters to act as the subjects. For those with families of mixed ages, this is an easy one to adjust for skill levels.

3. Who Am I?

Again, who am I is a simple game that doesn’t require any special boards or pieces. The family can write a collection of holiday characters down on small scraps of paper. Everyone chooses a piece of paper without looking at who they are. Then, they engage in conversations with others trying to decipher their own identity.

4. Charades

Charades is a classic party game, and for groups that can loosen up enough to play it, lots of laughter is inevitable. Holiday charades works great with holiday movies, stories, and songs. There are so many to choose from. The same list can be used for/from Pictionary. For that matter, the two games can be combined, allowing the actor or artist to choose their preferred method of supplying hints.

5. Treasure Hunt

Treasure hunts can be fun for both those searching for treasure and those hiding the treasure. Wrap a fun gift or a holiday treat and hide it. Create a series of clues that lead treasure hunters from one place to another in search of the booty. Large families could be split into teams. Have the kids make a hunt for parents as well.

6. Spoons

Easy card games work for most ages, and that’s exactly what spoons is. Normally, the game uses spoons, but to make it festive, it could be candy canes. Put out one less candy cane than the number of people playing. Each player gets four cards and is trying to make a set of four of a kind. When someone gets four of a kind, he/she/they quietly takes one of the candy canes. Everyone else should do the same, leaving one person without a candy cane. The last player standing wins. Here are the rules.

7. Pin the ___ on the ___

Pin the tail on the donkey has been a children’s birthday party mainstay for decades, and it has readily been morphed to all sorts of pin the ___ on the ___ versions. Well, the holidays yield all sorts of opportunities: Pin the nose on Rudolph, pin the star on the tree, pin the bow on the present…

8. Scavenger Hunt

With holiday decorations, treats, foods, clothing, and so on strewn about the house, it seems like the perfect setting for an old-fashioned scavenger hunt. Come up with a dozen or more holiday items for people to find around the house. The first person to find them all wins a prize of some sort, maybe choose the Christmas movie to watch or getting the first piece of pie.

9. Guess How Many

Treats are around. We’ve got Mason jars from all those canned goodies that have made it into the holiday feast. Put a bunch of candy or cookies or energy balls or nuts into a jar. Everyone guesses how many there are. The person who guesses the closest without going over wins the contents of the jar. (Give everyone an appropriate amount to count so that that responsibility is shared).

10. 20 Questions

Twenty questions works great with holiday figures. Everyone thinks of their favorite holiday characters, anyone from Kevin McCallister to Elf on the Shelf to Santa Clause himself. One person knows who the character is, everyone else can ask yes-or-no questions to try to decipher who it is.

In these times when we are restricted from seeing all those friends and family members we typically do over the holiday season, we should be making the most of those we have around. Get into some games and get into the spirit. Happy holidays to all.

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