How to Set up a Dirty Santa Gift Exchange

eHow may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.
How to Set up a Dirty Santa Gift Exchange
Image Credit: golero/iStock/GettyImages

Many Christmas parties have some type of gift exchange as the center of the festivities. The old Secret Santa gift exchange is just that -- old and traditional. For something new, try having a dirty Santa gift exchange. This allows guests to have a limited amount of control over what gift they leave the party with, instead of the pure luck aspect of Secret Santa Christmas gift exchanges.


Video of the Day

Step 1: Invite Your Friends to Your Dirty Santa Gift Exchange Party

Invite a group of friends to your dirty Santa party. You'll need to have at least a group of 10 guests. The ideal number is between 10 and 15 guests; the maximum number of guests should be 20.

Step 2: Brief the Guests

Ask each guest to bring a wrapped gift. As the host, you should set a price range that each gift should fall within. To keep the gifts relatively even in value, this range should have no more than a $15 difference between the high and the low price.


Step 3: Gather the Gifts

Direct each guest to place their gift on the gift table as they arrive. No "To" or "From" names should be written on the gifts, so that there is no indication of who brought the gift.

Step 4: Put Names in the Hat

Write each guest's name on a piece of paper. Fold this piece of paper up and place it in a hat. Make a separate list of names as each guest gives you their piece of paper.


Step 5: Commence the Game

Announce the first player's name on the list. He then can choose any gift on the gift table and open it. That is all this first person can do, but he also will have a turn after the final person on the list to compensate for having no options in the gifts he gets to see before choosing one.


Step 6: Everyone Gets a Turn -- Watch Out for the Steals!

Continue going down the list, allowing guests to take their turn. The second and each subsequent guest will have an option: they can either steal a gift that has already been opened, or open a new gift from the gift table. If a guest has a gift stolen from her, she then has the same option to either open a new gift or steal a gift someone else has already opened.


The most number of steals there can be in a round (a round starts with the next person on the list) is three. If a player is the third player to have her gift stolen in a round, she must open a new gift instead of stealing.

Step 7: Finish the Game

Continue going through the list, giving each person the opportunity to open a new gift or steal a gift to start the round. The player that started the first round is allowed to start the final round.


It's a good idea to have several house rules for the dirty Santa gift exchange. These can include that couples cannot steal gifts from each other, that a player cannot steal a gift from the player that just stole the same gift from her, and that once a gift is stolen three times no other player can steal that gift again. Gift certificates tend to be a very popular item, but also a very boring one; many hosts institute a rule that gift cards are not permitted as a gift.


If it is revealed that a player failed to purchase a gift that met the minimum required for the dirty Santa gift exchange, he must offer to exchange the gift he finishes the exchange with for the gift that he purchased.