Learn How to Host a Fun Christmas Gift Swap or Dirty Santa Party

Christmas Tree(70832)The goal of a gift exchange party (also sometimes called a “dirty Santa party”) is to celebrate Christmas with a group of people while only purchasing one gift. A Christmas gift exchange party or gift swap happens on one day (at a Christmas party) and no one knows who will end up with what gift. Christmas gift exchange parties are a great way to save money and protect the environment because you only have to buy one gift and therefore the the Earth only has to produce one gift.

How it works: each person brings a wrapped gift to the Christmas party. All the wrapped gifts are placed under the tree or in a central location. When all guests have arrived, start opening the gifts. Choose an order in which the participants will select and open gifts: age, birth month, height, number of body piercings, whatever, just choose a way to set the gift opening order. The first person selects a gift from the pile and opens it, everyone oohs and aahhs. The second person, can either steal the gift that the first person opened or select and open a new, unopened gift. If they choose to steal, then the person they stole from gets to select and open a new gift. If they choose a new unopened gift, they must keep it. They can not  then choose to steal the first persons gift. This continues until all participants have had a chance to steal or open a gift. Obviously it is better for you if your turn is very late in the game. It is always helpful to set a price range so that the gifts are similar.

Those are the basic rules to the Christmas gift exchange party. There are a couple variations that I will mention. Some groups choose to play where the person who has a gift stolen from them has the option to open a new gift or steal any already opened gift. This rule has the potential for making the game seemingly endless because if the last person in a 30 person game chooses to steal a gift then every other person could choose to steal a gift as well. One way to keep the game time in check is to set a limit on the number of times a particular item can be stolen. That way the most desired 2 or 3 items are not stolen each round.

Theme: Gift Exchange Parties often have a theme. The theme can really be anything. Many groups play this game with cheap gag gifts (often called a White Elephant Party) but more serious and thoughtful themes also make great gift exchange party ideas. For example, try these themes: kitchen gadgets, sports/music tickets, books, children’s toys, tools, wine, gardening tools, stationary, tupperware, Christmas nativity sets, etc. The possibilities are endless.

One more fun rule you could choose to use is: “the best gift giver goes last” rule. To encourage participants to give really good gifts (while staying in budget of course) your group could institute the “best gift giver goes last” rule. Here’s how it works: after all gifts have been opened, each participant votes on which gift was best (they can not vote for the gift they brought). After the “best gift” has been voted on, the person who gave that gift is revealed. That person then gets the opportunity to select (steal) any gift from any person as the final gift swap of the game.

Christmas gift exchange parties work well with many different groups of people. This Christmas season, try one with your family, friends, youth group, book club, colleagues, Sunday school class, mom’s club, or running buddies.

Regardless of the theme you choose or the specific rules you play by, a gift exchange party saves you money and protects the environment because it cuts down on the number of gifts you have to purchase (and that have to be manufactured). For maximum impact, have a re-gift party in whatever theme you choose.

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