Sometimes called a Yankee Swap, a white elephant exchange typically involves the exchange of funny gag gifts and unwanted items. It could be considered the ultimate in regifting. Whether it's part of an office Secret Santa party or a Christmas holiday event, the rules are fairly basic. But you can make the exchange more interesting by adding variations ot the rules.
Gifts should be in good or like-new condition and fall within a specified dollar value limit. The item can be a gag gift or something that someone could actually use or want. Gift certificates by themselves are not allowed, but it is okay if they accompany another item. For example, a book store gift certificate with a book is acceptable. All gifts must be wrapped.
Starting the Party
When a guest arrives at the party with her wrapped gift, the host places the gift in a designated area in an effort to hide the identity of the person who brought the gift. After all guests have arrived, those wishing to play gather around the wrapped gifts. Only those who have brought a gift can participate. The host prepares slips of paper with numbers equal to the total number of gifts. Each participant draws a number to determine the order of play.
Working the Exchange
The person who draws the number one selects a wrapped gift, unwraps it and allows everyone to see it. The person who draws number two takes the next turn. She can elect to take an opened gift–in this case number one's gift–or select a wrapped gift. If she takes number one's gift, number one picks another wrapped gift and opens it. Now there are two opened gifts. The person who has drawn number three takes the next turn. This person can choose any opened gift–in this case there are two–or decide to select a wrapped gift. This procedure continues until all gifts have been unwrapped.
A single turn continues until a wrapped gift is selected and unwrapped. When a gift is taken from you, you either take an already opened gift, or open a wrapped gift. A player can not immediately take back a gift that was just taken from her. If a single gift has been taken three times, on the fourth time, it is out of play. When all the gifts have been opened, the person who first started the exchange gets the final option to take any eligible gift or keep what she has.
If you know the total number of guests who will be attending the exchange, prepare the numbers in advance. Give the first guest to arrive the number one. The next guest will get the highest number, then work your way backward to number two. This number is considered to be the worst number. Keeps all gifts wrapped throughout the exchange. At the end when all gifts have be swapped and chosen, open them all at the same time.