Creating and Planning a Gift Exchange Game for Your Next Holiday Party


Tired of the usual white elephant gift exchange that’s been played out year after year? Then shake up your gift exchange with a more clever game for your next holiday party. But if you’re stuck on some fun seasonally inspired games to incorporate as you exchange gifts with your friends, coworkers or neighbors, we’ve got you covered! Simply choose a festive theme and budget that works for everyone, like swapping favorite holiday scented candles, and pick a fun, lively game that guarantees a good time. This year, you’ve got the holiday gift exchange in the bag!

Create a Gift Exchange Theme

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The first step in planning a gift exchange game is to come up with a fun, creative theme. There are all kinds of holiday themes you choose, from gifts inspired by the 12 Days of Christmas, The Nutcracker and a summer-themed Christmas in July. For example, the nutcracker candle makes a wonderful item for a gift exchange game. You could also create a gift exchange game based on favorite holiday movies and holiday foods. Of course, you can always go the traditional White Elephant route and make it a total surprise. 

Put a Limit on Gift Cost

When planning a gift exchange, one thing to keep in mind is to put a cap on the amount each person should spend. Setting a limit on the gift’s price tag will help guide guests toward a price-appropriate gift. It levels the playing field instead of having outrageously expensive gifts that everyone is vying for. Having gifts that are roughly the same price makes a game fun and not overly competitive and ensures that those with limited budgets feel their contribution is worthwhile too. A good cap is around $30, so think really nice candles, wine or a book. Nothing too frivolous!

Pick One of These 4 Lively Gift Exchange Games

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Okay, now for the fun part: picking your gift exchange game. There are countless classic games out there that you can repurpose into a holiday theme, such as Bingo, Musical Chairs and much more. 

These games don’t have to feel kiddy, but they are great family-friendly fun. As you choose what kind of game to play, keep in mind the age of guests. Create the game in a way that younger children understand how to play. For instance, you might want to avoid games where you “steal” gifts from one another, causing confusion and possibly ending in tears if they don’t get what they want.

Below we list some of those classic games and tips for putting a fun holiday spin on each. 

#1 Holiday Cards

No, we’re not talking about holiday cards you mail. This stack of cards reveals what you do with your gift. Like a regular white elephant, you draw a card that says one of several things: steal, swap, unwrap, pick again. Instead of deciding on a gift to steal, the cards add another layer of chance, which keeps the game interesting. Whether you choose to have guests bring their gifts wrapped or not is entirely up to you, but we suggest making it more enticing by leaving them unwrapped for all to see. 

#2 Holiday Bingo Bazaar

Bingo! This gift exchange game starts by collecting everyone’s gifts and displaying them on a table. Then, pass out Bingo cards, and guests play until everyone wins a round. The first person to yell Bingo! gets the first pick of the gifts, and so on and so on. When there’s only one gift left, you can call the game over, and the person who has yet to get a row gets the remaining gift. 

Bingo seems like a simple enough game, but when you combine it with a holiday theme — and a mountain of tempting gifts! — it can be a ton of fun. Print the Bingo game cards and give each person a reusable token to make their squares. Keep the Bingo cards small, with 9 to 12 squares, if you have a smaller holiday party or want to speed up the gift exchange. 

#3 Pass the Parcel Musical Chairs 

Musical chairs is a more interactive gift exchange game. While it’s ideal for smaller parties at home, the game can also work for larger groups like work teams (as long as you have a large conference room space with lots of chairs). For holiday musical chairs, ask guests to bring their gift wrapped, where it will be placed on a table and redistributed once the game begins. 

As everyone sits in a circle, choose a single gift from the pile and have them pass it around when the music starts. When the music stops, the person with the gift keeps it! Continue with the game until everyone has a gift. Choose holiday hits like “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” or “Run Run Rudolph” to put a holiday spin on musical chairs.

#4 The Naughty List Never Have I Ever

Most of us know the game Never Have I Ever, but for a holiday twist, have guests and players come up with holiday-oriented statements. For example, you could create statements like “Never have I ever got wasted at a holiday office party” or “Never have I ever been kissed under the Mistletoe.” For a more family-friendly version “Never have I ever tried to wait up for Santa.” The person who did the bad thing that might put them on the naughty list has to move seats and leave their gift for someone on the nice list.

Make Your Gift Exchange Party a Holiday Hit!

With these holiday-inspired gift exchange ideas, your holiday party is sure to be a huge hit! It breaks the model of a boring old white elephant tradition and offers a more lively, engaging game that can have guests laughing, as jolly as Santa. 

Remember to keep the gift exchange light-hearted and fun. And ask guests and those participating to cap their gift expenses. This way, everyone walks away happy with something they will enjoy. 

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