Gift Exchanges

When you have a large family or a big group of close friends, the cost of holiday gifts can quickly add up. If you don’t want to set a low limit per gift ($10, for example), you can set up Christmas gift exchanges that allow each person to receive a more thoughtful and personalized gift. Not only do these gift swap ideas reduce the number of names on your gift list, they also can be an enjoyable part of a holiday party.

Yankee Swap

A Yankee swap is one of the classic Christmas gift exchanges. This game is great for parties with large groups of family, friends or co-workers. The Yankee swap or white elephant gift exchange allows everyone to receive a gift while enlivening the Christmas party atmosphere. Yankee swap rules vary, but usually follow a basic set of guidelines.

  1. Each person brings one gift, and all gifts are placed together.
  2. To begin the Yankee swap, number slips of paper up to the number of participants. Each person chooses a number to determine when her turn will be.
  3. The person who chooses number one goes first, picking and opening a gift. The person with number two goes next, and can choose to keep the gift he has chosen, or trade with person number one.
  4. The rest of the participants follow suit, with each person having the option to keep his chosen gift or switch with someone who has gone before him.
  5. After the last person has chosen a gift, the person with number one has a final opportunity to trade with any person.

Yankee swaps can be done with any type of item, from more expensive gifts to small trinkets or joke gifts.

Secret Santa

If you and your friends or family would like to limit the number of gifts you exchange but still want to purchase gifts more tailored to each individual, you can try “Secret Santa” Christmas gift exchanges. Once you select a group of individuals to participate in the exchange, each person chooses one other person to buy for. You can choose names out of a hat, or have an outside party designate the shopping assignments. The participants can know their buyer’s identity, or it can be kept a secret.

Other Gift Exchange Ideas

If you and your friends or neighbors like to bake, a cookie swap can be a great gift exchange. All the participants make enough cookies so that each person in the exchange will receive a set amount (half a dozen, for example). At the end of the day, each person will leave with a wonderful variety of several dozen cookies. The cookies from these Christmas gift exchanges can be shared by your family or served at a Christmas party.

The same can be done with crafts, such as Christmas ornaments. Each person makes enough of their craft or decoration to give one item to each partygoer at the exchange, and leaves with a variety of gifts. You can mix things up by having each guest bring her specialty, with some people bringing crafts and decorations and others bringing food.