Games to Play for Gift Exchanges

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There are many different games you can play at a gift exchange.
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While tearing open a holiday gift can be fun, good gift exchanges are much more exciting. The effort put into wrapping can seem wasted when gifts are opened in mere seconds, so why not make the most of it with a present exchange game? Many families and companies do this at holiday parties, and guests look forward to it each year. You don't have to play the same one every time, however. There are many different games you can choose to play.


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Gift Exchange Games for Large Groups

With most gift exchange games, the organizer sets a price limit and instructs the participants to purchase a gift that would be good for anyone in the group. For example, if kids are involved, you won't want to buy bottles of alcohol or anything else that is inappropriate. Buying gift cards or just giving money is not a good idea either. Everyone brings a wrapped gift without a name on it, and the more interesting the wrapping, the more desirable the gift will be to participants.


Many people enjoy a hot potato gift exchange game. This is played just as you would expect. Everyone sits in a circle (or in several circles if there are many people) or around a cleared table. The host can be in charge of setting a timer; 30 seconds is a good amount of time to make sure the game doesn't take too long. After the host sets the timer, the gift gets passed around until the buzzer goes off. Whoever is holding the gift at that time keeps it and leaves the group, and the game continues until everyone has something.

Secret Santa or Pollyanna

Secret Santa, also called Pollyanna, is another good one many people know and love. Everyone enters their name into a hat weeks before the party, or the host can randomly allocate names. You can also find secret Santa name generators online if you are hosting and want to buy and receive a gift.


Each person buys a gift for the person drawn from the hat. Trying to figure out who has your name beforehand is all part of the fun. In some cases, the identity of the secret Santa is revealed at the end once gifts are given. Other times, it remains a mystery.

Another Fun Present Exchange Game

White elephant, also known as dirty Santa, is another fun holiday gift exchange game that you can try. It's best to follow some basic rules of setting price limits and wrapping gifts without names, but adding themes can make things even more interesting. For example, you might instruct your guests to only purchase local gifts, food-related gifts and so forth.


Here's how to play dirty Santa. As guests arrive, they can place the gifts in a central area; it's best if others don't see who brought what. To start the game, everyone draws a number from a hat, making sure there is one number for each person there. Whoever picks #1 starts first and chooses whatever gift appeals to him. The person with #2 has an option: She can choose another gift from the pile or steal person #1's gift.

When someone's gift is stolen, he steals another gift or chooses one from the pile. A gift may be stolen only once per turn. For example, if person #6's gift gets stolen and she steals from person #3, then person #3 can't steal from someone else and must pick an unopened gift. You also can't steal back a gift right after it's stolen from you. Another important note is that you can only steal any gift three times. The host can keep track of that. After the last person has her turn, person #1 gets the option to steal a gift since he started the game and was unable to do so at his turn.