What’s a hoopla?

The Hoopla is a gift that you can give to a whole group of people at once. And it is something that can be from a group of people, like your immediate family.

What’s it For?

The Hoopla is a great idea for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and nearly any other occasion! People love sharing in creative experiences together and it creates memories that last a lifetime!

What do you do?

You simply create some sort of experience for someone or a group of people you love. The experience can be a dinner party, musical talent show, scavenger hunt, poetry reading, variety show, or dessert bar. What type of event you do and how elaborate you make it is totally up to you. If you use your imagination and consider the people you’re creating this event for, I bet you’ll come up with something wonderful.

Can you give me an example?

Sure. Below are a few examples of “Holiday Hooplas” but the ideas can be used for any kind of event — birthday, retirement, graduation, etc. Just tweak as needed!

Hoopla #1: Variety Show + Carnival Booths

About ten years ago for the holidays my son, his dad, my beau, and I all wanted to come up with an experience we could create for our extended family whom we visit every year in Ohio. We decided to send out invitations for a Holiday Hoopla, which would be a carnival, variety show, and dinner held in my mom’s house.

Instead of buying presents for our family, we had a whole lot of fun planning the various carnival booths (including a “Validation Booth” in which we told people things we loved about them and an alter ego photo both). We also held a variety show with magic, kung fu demonstrations, juggling, and piano playing. Afterward, we served a big homemade meal and everyone talked about their favorite parts of the day.

What made this such a joyful and amazing event is that it was so much fun to plan, so much fun to host, and so much fun to attend. My 9-year-old son was excited for weeks beforehand. He loved making signs and decorating and brainstorming booths. Our family that attended got to be a part of something that brought us all together in a new, creative way. It was festive and full of vitality. And the memories are ours forever.


Sample activities:


  • Validation Booth
    Before the Hoopla, make a list of every person who will be participating. Next to their names, write three things you love about them or that are really great about them. Have someone sit at a small table with a stamp that says “validated” or “yes.” (You can buy these at a stationery store.) When someone sits down at this booth to get a validation, you read them the three things that are great about them and give them a “validated” stamp on their arm.
  • Alter Ego Photo Booth
    Gather a bunch of fun hats, scarves, reindeer antlers, funny noses, etc. Create a “booth,” maybe with a backdrop, and have people dress up and get their photo taken.
  • Card Tricks/Magic
    If someone in your clan knows magic or card tricks, this could be a booth. My son was our “magician” because he’d just received a box o’ tricks and was excited to try them out on people.
  • Variety Show
    After folks have had time to visit the carnival booths, you can put on a show for them. Performers can sing, dance, play musical instruments, etc. Think of ways to pull audience members into the show for added fun.

#2: Survivor Christmas + Survivor Christmas II

That Hoopla was so much fun, we decided to make it an annual tradition. The next year, our hoopla was themed “Survivor Christmas”— we had lots of fun Mock-Survivor challenges like a Treasure Hunt, Chocolate-kiss eating contest, Extreme Gingerbread House Building Contest, Standing on one Foot Challenge, and more. Folks loved it so much, we did a Survivor Two the next year! We added in some more games like blindfolded food testing or air-hockey challenges. Before the hoopla, buy enough colored bandanas for each participant to be on a team. You can have two or three teams.


Sample activities:


  • Extreme Gingerbread house decorating 
    Buy one gingerbread house kit per team and offer them lots of fun things to decorate with—candies, glitters, small chotchkes, marshmallows, frosting, etc. (You choose: edibles or not!) You can have a theme, if you want. One year we asked for “tropical houses.”
  • Kiss Konsuming Kontest:
    How many chocolate kisses can the contestant eat in one minute. (One person from each team participates.)
  • Treasure Hunt:
    Before the Hoopla begins, hide about 20-30 items around the house. Give folks lists of the items. Or, to make it harder, give ’em clues for the items. (For example, we have a small Albanian flag at my mom’s house. The clue was “something from Grandpa’s birthplace.)
  • Standing on one leg:
    Kinda obvious. One person from each team is chosen to play. Whomever can stand on one leg for the longest time wins that point.
  • Ornament story telling:
    Have each team member from both teams invent stories about the ornaments hanging on the tree. Judges choose the funniest/most outrageous.
  • Mystery food guess:
    Choose one participant from each team. Blindfold them with their bandana. They have to try three or four mystery foods and guess what it is.
  • Customized crossword puzzle solving:
    Just like it sounds. We created a crossword puzzle using clues that were family history/stories. You find websites/software to help you create your puzzle.

#3: Custom Murder Mystery

Last Year, we changed things up a bit with a Murder Mystery, personally written by all of us, but mostly by my then-13-year-old son!

My beau had broken his foot and wasn’t able to be at the gathering, so we pretended he’d been murdered and created a bunch of clues using family photos, an old iPhone, and fake Facebook posts.

We started the hoopla off with a sign that said it was going to be a juggling/circus theme. Then, my son’s sad snuck away and run the doorbell, leaving a “mysterious” package containing an iphone with clues on it.

We hid clues around the house before the Hoopla started and so there was the added feature of folks having to find the clues by solving puzzles. We also created fake “phone messages” for people to listen to as clues. (Note: you can buy ready-made Murder Mystery Games from local bookstores or online. But it was really fun to custom-make our own!)


Sample activities:


  • You can purchase a Murder Mystery Dinner Party box/game with everything you need.
  • You can use your creativity/imagination to write a personalized murder mystery and create your own clues. This obviously takes a lot more time, but the customization is really fun and makes the day so much more personal.
  • There’s probably a way to do a hybrid, too. Perhaps buy a boxed set and customize the cards/clues for your clan?

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