Getting Creative with Gift Exchange Ideas
Some Traditional and Some New Gift Exchange Ideas
The holiday season brings opportunities for a plethora of fun activities including the ubiquitous gift exchange. Certainly the one-on-one, everyone give everyone else a gift idea is alive and well particularly in personal, family gift exchanges. Coming straight from the workplace to the home is the idea of the group gift exchange. Whether using a traditional approach or getting a bit creative on how to exchange those group gifts, make the exchange as much fun as the gifts themselves.
Traditional Group Gift Exchange
Both personal and workplace gift exchanges typically use a traditional exchange. Everyone draws the name of a participant for whom they will buy a gift. At gift opening time, each person opens their gift.
Draw a Number Gift Exchange for a Party Setting
Put a creative spin on that gift exchange. Have everyone bring a gift wrapped present. Number the gifts. Put individual slips of paper in a basket or bag. Each person draws a number and receives the corresponding gift with that number. Open gifts one at a time for full attention of the group.
Dirty Santa Variation
A person can play ‘dirty’ and steal a gift from someone who has already opened theirs instead of taking the one with their number. The number goes to the person from whom they stole the gift. That person then gets to open the gift with that number. A good rule is to put a limit on the stealing of a particular gift, say one or two times.
To give a bit more fun time to the opening of the gifts, try the dicey variety of the gift exchange. No need exists to number the gifts. Participants pass around a pair of dice. Each takes their turn at tossing the dice. If they roll two doubles, they get to choose their gift. Keep passing the dice until everyone has the opportunity to open a present. If someone rolls a double six, they can take a gift or steal an already opened item. Large foam dice found at teacher supply store and sometimes at the dollar store make this fun as everyone can see the results of the roll.
Often used in workplace settings, Secret Santa lets the games begin typically right after Thanksgiving. Everyone draws a name of another participant. Every so often, or at set intervals like once per week, everyone gets a gift for the person they drew. The gift arrives to its recipient with no indicator of who the Secret Santa might be. At a designated time right before Christmas, perhaps at a holiday party, Secret Santas show themselves with the last gift. Typically the gifts given while Santa is a secret are smaller or even gag gifts. Money limits are often put on the interval or last gifts. The beauty of this process is that the gift givers and recipients enjoy a season of gifting and guessing versus a one-time event of opening a gift.
Tacky Sweater Swap
This one makes for a great party picture. Have everyone bring a tacky Christmas sweater. Garage sales and thrift outlets are great places to shop! Have the guests arrive with their tacky sweaters all wrapped. Number the gifts and choose numbers. Participants choose the gift with their number, and the sweater becomes their attire for the evening. Buying on the large side helps if sizes vary. Take a group party picture as a holiday memory!
Stuff Around the House Swap
Have everyone bring one, new item from home. Set a price limit, say $5.00. Items come wrapped just as if great presents! Attendees leave with something useful like light bulbs, toilet paper, canned good, etc. This one certainly takes the stress out and makes shopping easy.
Dollar Store Dazzle
Set a limit of $1.00 on the gift purchases. Everyone finds an item from the neighborhood dollar store as their exchange gift. The stress of big spending is gone on this one!
Put in the rules that everyone is to bring their favorite holiday liquid refreshment as the gift. Again, set a dollar limit to make things fair.
The Left and Right Story
Prior to the party, write a story that has the words ‘left’ and ‘right’ written into each sentence. Put all the gift wrapped presents on a table. Participants all take a gift. Read the story, and every time the words ‘left’ or ‘right’ are used, the gifts pass in that direction.
For example: Santa's exhaustion from working all year on the Christmas toys showed and he just had no energy left. All he had left to do to be ready for his holiday deliveries was to check out the naughty and nice list. Mrs. Claus had a few chores left as well like packing Santa’s sleigh with some edible goodies for his flight around the world. Santa had really tried hard this year to lose weight, and it just didn’t seem right that all people were going to leave for him as nourishment was cookies and carbohydrates.
Keep the story going, but you get the drift. If you really want to have some fun with it, have your participants write the story. Give everyone a pencil and piece of lined notebook paper. They all start a story with a sentence that has ‘left’ or ‘right’ in it. They then pass the paper to the person next to them to continue the story on the paper in hand. Keep going until every story has gone around to everyone. Choose a story, and that becomes the one read for the gift pass. Using attendee names in the story adds to the fun.
Put all the presents on a table. Play BINGO. When someone has three in a row, they get to choose a gift. If someone who has already won wins again, they can steal a gift. To make things go faster, when someone who has already won wins again, they merely choose a person with the closest birthdate (month and day only) to their own to choose the prize. Continue to play until everyone has a gift.
Most important of all, be creative and have fun with the holiday gift swap. Opening those gifts qualifies as the hit of the party when thought goes into the activity. Welcome indeed are all other creative ideas on gift swaps!