I LOVE a holiday gift exchange. When I was teaching, I organized a Secret Santa exchange among our staff. For the holiday party that my husband and I host, I always include a gift exchange, and I look forward to a friend’s White Elephant exchange with glee. You can tell gifts are my love language, and I can understand why some people don’t love it. For the same reason I find dressing up on Halloween to be a chore rather than a fun tradition, some people don’t take much joy from the annual exchange. It’s often the same every year, where some people overdo the holiday cheer, some give the bare minimum, and others just aren’t willing to participate. Instead of sticking with the same old tradition, why not mix it up this year?
We’ve compiled a list of unique holiday gift exchange ideas that you can suggest to your group, along with some twists on the old traditions. If you already have a fun tradition, I’d love to hear what you do with your family and friends to spread a little holiday cheer!
Seven Unique Holiday Gift Exchange Ideas
Secret Santa Hunt
First, a twist on the traditional. Secret Santa is popular in groups because it’s a fun way to surprise someone. There is a time limit (and often a budget), and gifts are delivered during that time. Then you have a set day and time where the Santas reveal themselves to the recipient. If you like this tradition, change it up this year and make the last gift a treasure hunt around the office. Each Santa can draw up some clues or a map to direct their coworker, friend or family member to the final gift.
White Elephant Mix-Up
The game of White Elephant varies from party to party, but it normally is played by the passing and stealing of gifts. The gifts will have a budget and can be a decent gift or a joke, depending upon the giver. People like using the White Elephant game during a party because it is a fun way to give gifts, it involves everyone, and it’s entertainment for quite a while. This year, add a twist to your White Elephant exchange by requiring everyone to purchase a gift from the same store, telling them to buy a gift that starts with the same letter, or pick an attribute (round, soft, square, etc.) and all gifts must somehow display this attribute.
Guess the Giver
For this game, when a person picks their gift, they have to somehow have it represent them (a favorite hobby, color, sports team, etc.). Collect all of the gifts early and pass them out when it’s time to open them. Starting with the youngest person (or oldest, wisest, tallest, etc), have them open their gift and guess who it might be from. If they guess wrong, let the person to the right try to correctly guess the giver. If the second person guesses correctly, they can choose to exchange their gift for the opened one. In this case, the second person gives the unopened present to the first person, who must wait for Round 2 before they can open it. If they decide not to exchange or if their guess is wrong, then the first person must keep the gift and the second person is allowed to open their gift and guess the giver. The game is repeated until everyone has an opened gift.
The Dreidel Exchange
Take a wooden dreidel and label each side with a direction (right, left, across, keep). Have each person start with their own gift. Then pass the dreidel around to each guest, allowing them to spin it once. When it falls, the direction facing up is the direction in which they must pass their gift. The exchange is complete when everyone has spun the dreidel.
The Night Before Christmas
It’s the classic poem with a twist! Everyone starts with their own gift in their lap. A reader is selected to read the altered poem of “T’was the Night Before Christmas”. In this new version, the directions of ‘right’ and ‘left’ are added within the poem. When each direction is read, the gifts must be passed in that order. When the reading is over, everyone opens their gifts!
For this game, you will need to collect one silly or strange fact from each person about themselves. Have them write the fact on a slip of paper and put it into a bag. All of the gifts then go into a pile. Have one person read a fact and allow everyone to guess whom it might be about. The person to correctly guess gets to pick a present and is then out of the game. Play until everyone has a gift to open.
Play Left Center Right
LCR has become a holiday tradition for both sides of our extended families. We play with three $1 bills, but an alternative way we’ve played is with 2 $1 bills and a $5 gift card. The downside is that only one person goes home with a prize (or you can obviously play multiple rounds) but it has the benefit of being a fun game and a gift-giving opportunity all in one.