Pass The Parcel Lucky Dip

Christmas and New Year are going to be a bit different this year. Nights out, house parties and lipsticks will be replaced by small family gatherings, slippers and facemasks. But I’m determined to put my resourcefulness to the test to make this Christmas and New Year one to remember, and not just for the global pandemic thing.

Over the next few weeks, in the run up to the end of this dreadful year, I’ll be posting some simple recipe and activity ideas to help you make the most of it (including a yummy cocktail recipe that I think we’re all in need of!) So stay tuned, stay positive, and keep a notepad and pen handy. We WILL have fun this winter!

To kick us off, I’m going to share with you my Pass The Parcel Lucky Dip game – This is a really fun, easy party game to play with adults and children alike. It’s a modern twist on an old classic, and it’s perfect for Christmas family gatherings when the idea of another never-ending game of Monopoly, really doesn’t appeal.

Granted, when you announce in a room full of adults that everyone’s going to play pass the parcel, you will be met by furrowed brows, eye rolls and a chorus of “what?!”. But trust me, 5 mins in, everyone will be howling with laughter and your usually shy friend will be shouting “back off” whist searching through the bags trying to find the heaviest/bulkiest/one that could be alcohol.

I first put this game together for a New Years Eve party a few years ago. It was going to be mostly adults at the party apart from 2 or 3 children aged 5 – 10, and I wanted an activity that the kids would enjoy and the adults wouldn’t get bored of too quickly. This went down a treat.

I used to work at a small family run supermarket in the village where I live, and every Christmas Eve, when the shop shut for Christmas a lot of the staff would go straight over the road to the Working Men’s Club. Once there, every time you purchased a drink your name got put into a hat, and once there was a decent number of names in there someone would pull them out one by one. If your name was called, you could choose a prize from the pile of gifts at one end of the room. All the gifts where in boxes of various sizes, and all wrapped so you couldn’t tell what they were. Some of the prizes were really good – boxes of chocolates, board games, cocktail making kits etc; and some of the prizes were bad – Potnoodles, comedy glasses, a beer mat etc. Everyone loved it, cheers would erupt around the room as people opened prizes, items would be passed around and swapped, and it created some much needed revenue for the bar.

This gave me the idea for my Pass The Parcel Lucky Dip Game. But instead of drawing names out of a hat, we passed a parcel around to music, as a nod to the old-school party games everyone enjoyed as kids, and to make sure everyone was involved and actively playing along. When the music stopped, instead of removing a layer of wrapping paper, we chose a prize.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • A large crate or box
  • An assortment of small prizes – good and bad. Enough to make sure everyone gets one (if you think you’ll have 10 people playing, have 13-15 prizes. You don’t want people going home empty handed, the jeopardy should be in whether their prize will be good or bad, not whether they’ll get one at all)
  • Enough paper bags for each prize.
  • A stapler
  • A large present, gift wrapped, to be passed around.
  • If playing with both adults and children, you’ll also need a marker pen and some squares of coloured paper.

How To Play:

  • Put one prize in each paper bag and staple the top shut to stop people from peeking.
  • Place all the prizes into the crate/box apart from the gift wrapped present.
  • Get everyone to sit in a circle and have the box/crate of prizes in the middle.
  • Play some tunes and get the guests to pass the gift wrapped prize clockwise or anticlockwise around the circle.
  • Have someone in charge of the music (that moody teenager or miserable adult that really doesn’t want to play) and whenever they press pause, whoever has hold of the gift wrapped present chooses a prize from the box/crate.
  • Continue until all the prizes have been chosen. Whoever is holding the present the next time the music stops, wins the present itself and ends the game.

It’s a simple idea, easy and quick to put together and a lot of fun. Just make sure there is a good mixture of prizes. For my New Years Eve party I had all sorts including a Christmas tree decoration, alcohol miniatures, a scented candle, candy canes, a scratch card, tea bags, sprout flavoured crisps, a ‘Happy New Year’ badge and sweets.

The Prizes:

  • As I mentioned earlier, some prizes should be good and some should be bad, but the gift wrapped present should be the best – a large box of chocolates always goes down well.
  • Keep costs down. This is meant to be a fun, easy game, don’t bankrupt yourself for it. Set a budget and stick to it – I had a £5 budget for the final present and a £3 maximum spend for each prize, and it’s amazing what you can find for very little when you have a good look around a supermarket. Don’t feel like you have to spend the full allowance on each prize either, you might spend a few pound on a good prize like an alcohol miniature, but pence on a bad prize like a packet of gum. That inequality of prizes is what the game is all about.
  • Don’t be afraid to use what you already have around the house. A couple of bobbles or hair clips from that pack you just bought yourself would make a good prize, especially if your mate’s bald husband picks them out. Did you get a perfume or beauty sample in the magazine you bought last week? What about the multi pack of sweets or crisps that you have in the cupboard, can you pinch an item out of there? Just make sure everything is unused and all food items are still in date.
  • Get creative – Print out some colouring in sheets or word searches from the internet if you’re playing with kids in the party, or have a few forfeits in there to mix it up a bit.
  • Make sure the prizes are age appropriate. Although it would be funny for grandma to win a plastic dinosaur, it’s not so funny for your 4 year old nephew to win a box of matches or a scratch card. If you’re playing with a mixture of adults and children, mark the prizes clearly if they’re only suitable for a particular age group. Kids are so used to there being lots of things they’re too young for, so if you have some ‘adults only’ prizes, have some ‘kids only’ prizes too, it’ll make them feel special. Make sure you have some that are unmarked and suitable for all as well though, don’t segregate everything. I colour coded mine with clearly marked labels which I stapled to the bags (I didn’t trust drunk adults to remember which colour was which) – green for kids, yellow for adults and plain for suitable for anyone.

For Life, Not Just For Pandemics:

Secret Santa

Instead of just awkwardly handing out your Secret Santa gifts on the last day of work, before slinking off home for the holidays, why not end the working year with a bit of silliness. Make a round of tea (or share a tipple), put all the Secret Santa gifts in the box, or get everyone to bring in a £1 present and play this to add a bit of jollity into the last day of work. Just imagine Paul from accounts getting a Candy Bra or Dawn from HR winning a packet of Supernoodles for Christmas.

If you’re from a large family who don’t do gifts for everyone because there are just too many of you, why don’t you get together just before Christmas and do this instead of Secret Santa? Put a £5-£10 budget on the prizes and get everyone to bring 1 or 2 with them. Have everyone wrap the gifts and put them in the crate/box when they arrive. The end present could be a voucher saying they don’t have to wash any dishes on Christmas Day, or they get the choice of which movie to watch or they get to choose the venue for the next family gathering.

Hen Do

This would be a great game to play at a hen do, especially if you have a mixture of ages and personalities attending. Gather everyone together for drinks and nibbles and play this before you go out to town. The main present could be an inflatable penis or blowup doll that the winner has to carry round with them for the night or a pamper kit for the morning after. The prizes could include penis shaped straws, lollipops, dare cards, items of fancy dress to wear, nail varnish, perfume samples etc.

Children’s Parties

Kid’s parties can be really expensive for the hosts. Once you’ve paid for the venue, food, cake, decorations and presents for the birthday child, the last thing you want to spend money on is party bags. Buy a few multi-packs of sweets, split a few packets of crayons, tying a few colours together with elastic bands, print out some colouring sheets and play this just before the party ends. It’ll get all the kids together in one area, ready to be picked up and they take whatever prize they win and a slice of cake home – no need for party bags.

If you liked this post, you may also like:


Infusing Alcohol

Soft Scotch Sugar Sweets

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