How to do 12 Days of Christmas at Work

The 12 days of Christmas might be something you traditionally might celebrate at home, but there are ways to bring it into the office, just without the turtle doves and resulting HR complaints.

When to start the 12 days of Christmas

One of the first questions is when do the 12 days start? There isn't a simple answer, however consider working backwards from some of the below dates.

  • Are you hosting a Christmas Party?
  • Is your office have a staff shut down?
  • Is there a time where your CEO or Executive Team is/isn't going to be available.

Typically you would start your 12 business days of Christmas 12 days before the final day of the year, or 12 days before your Christmas party.

12 Business Days of Christmas

Here is our simple guide and suggestions for how you could introduce 12 days of Christmas at your office.

Day 1: Decorate the Office

Use this time to decorate the office, include the office tree, lights and any decorations you stored away last year. Make sure entrances and exits have some decorations, but be aware for fire hazards and WHS risks as you go. You don't want something meant to bring joy to bring pain and accident reports.

Day 2: Gift Exchange

Organise each team to host a secret santa, bad santa or white elephant gift exchange. Allow 30-60 minutes for the teams to complete this task, or ask for teams to host this during lunch.

Day 3: Office Trivia

Create a Lunch Time office trivia game. Teams can be in whatever layout your lunch room is and topics covered include seasonal themes, holiday destinations and office trivia from previous Christmas Parties.

Day 4: Cookie Day

As Santa loves cookies and milk, consider adding your own flavour of cookies to the mix. Consider putting Cookies and Milk on your drinks trolley and send it around the office, or host a baking competition instead. 

Day 5: Ginger Bread House

Host a Ginger Bread House decorating competition. This requires some preparation to have purchased the ingredients, so it is suggested to find a dedicated service for this.

Day 6: Ugly Sweater/Shirt competition

Every year this day ends up being on the hottest day of summer, so consider adjusting this to a hat/shirt/socks or some other (safe) article of clothing.

Day 7: Desk Decorating Competition

Teams and Individuals can prepare desks and department areas to be decorated. Bonus twist is to add in a scoring system that includes your company values blended with Christmas themes. Do not announce the judges until the day of or risk some bribes being delivered.

Day 8: Holiday Movies

Run movies throughout the day in the office and break rooms

Day 9: Holiday Arts and Crafts

Decorate santa hats and stockings, and then hang them in your cubicals. Draw and write up your christmas cards for your colleagues, friends and families. If work is willing to pay, consider commissioning branded christmas cards or a photobooth.

Day 10: Charity Times

Allow your teams to spend a few hours or the day working on charities. Whether you partner with a charity and offer them your marketing team, or you are going to supply your products for free at the local charity, this season should be as much about giving back to community as it is to your staff.

Day 11: Out Of Office Competition

The amount of emails that are sent out to blank responses each year is staggering. Get people to schedule their Out Of Offices and submit their proposed ideas. This gives HR the chance to weed out those who may have caused mischief. Best plan, as it is every year, is to see if your IT team is able to collate who has set the out of offices and provide them to HR for record keeping. 

Day 12: Christmas Party

Today is the day of your Christmas party. For many employees this is the biggest event of the year. It is a time for everyone to relax and celebrate their hard work. 

What not to do during the 12 work days of Christmas?

There are a few considerations for this event. 

  1. While it is okay to acknowledge religious aspects, note that your team likely has diverse religious attitudes. Ensure activities and decorations are respectful and inclusive where possible. Consider how the legendary team at OC coined the term chrismukkah.
  2. Do not force participation. Not everyone celebrates Christmas. Some people may have families in other countries. Some may not celebrate Christmas for personal or religious reasons. Others just don't want to get involved... and that is perfectly fine.
  3. Inappropriate Gifts are a risk. Ensure you provide clear guidelines and where possible a record of who was the secret santa to who. This is still a work environment and you want to minimise HR risks where possible.
  4. Alcohol at events. Consider your policies and whether you should or should not be including booze.
  5. Ignore remote workers. There is already some isolation when working remote. Consider including them where possible.


If you haven't already planned your Christmas party, review our guide on How to Plan a Christmas Party.

Video: The 12 Business Days of Christmas

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