Holidays, Party Ideas

Unwrap the Fun with These Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas

By Heather Roonan

The holiday season is upon us, and that means it’s time for festive gatherings and gift exchanges galore. If you’re tired of the same old present swap—you’re in luck! From fun games to unique gift themes, we’ve got a Santa’s sack full of Christmas gift exchange ideas that will make your holiday party unforgettable.

Put a twist on the classics

Everyone has participated in gift exchange games like Secret Santa and White Elephant, so do something different this year. Give those classics a fun twist with some personalization and added challenges.

🐘 Note: Be sure you’re familiar with the official White Elephant Gift Exchange rules or develop your own variation to apply to the games that require it.

Personalize your present

Giving and receiving presents is often a personal experience. So, let your guests express themselves and get to know each other better with these simple gift exchange ideas.

🧑‍🎄 Santa’s Helper

Help your guests with their Secret Santa purchases! Have each person write a few of their interests or gift ideas on a piece of paper. It can be helpful to give them a price range. Fold them up and place them in something for everyone to draw from. This guarantees everyone leaves with something they want!

❤️ A Few of My Favorite Things

Sharing the things we love with those we care about most can be a special gift on its own. Have your guests wrap up their favorite things and trade them among the group. As each is opened, the giver should share what that particular thing means to them and why they wanted to give it. Cue the “aww”s!

❓ Guess the Giver

See how well your guests know each other. Have each guest bring a wrapped gift that relates to them in some way—an interest, a favorite color, rhymes with their name, etc. Get clever with it! Pass out the presents and take turns opening and guessing who gave that gift.

Bonus: Add a consequence to getting it wrong, like allowing the giver to ask the receiver truth or dare!

Make it a game

Turn your gift exchange into fun Christmas party games everyone can enjoy. From revealing truths to games of chance, these gift exchange ideas will have your guests laughing and strategizing as they open their presents.

🫣 Never Have I Ever

You’re gonna need some space for this twist on the classic party game. Put your guests in a circle with a gift in front of each. Take turns saying, “Never have I ever <insert action>.” The people who have done the stated thing switch places with each other, rushing to get the spot they want most.

The person who said “Never Have I Ever” then opens the gift in front of them but leaves it there, opened, as play continues. People can trade places in future rounds to “steal” an already-opened gift. After everyone has a turn, they keep the gift in front of them (and open it if it’s still wrapped).

Never Have I Ever gift exchange game
Visit Play Party Plan to get the full rules and a printable list of questions

🍬 Spin the Candy Cane

If you wanna keep your gift exchange game short and sweet, this is the one to choose. It’s just like the classic spin-the-bottle game but with presents instead of kisses. The easiest way to play is to simply put your gifts in a circle and take turns spinning a large candy cane to select a gift until all are claimed.

Do a second round if you want to add a white elephant spin to it. This time, when the candy cane lands on someone, they decide if they want to steal that gift or keep it and open theirs. The game continues until each person has a chance to spin again.

🎲 Roll the Dice

This Christmas gift exchange game is super simple! All you need are dice and a list of instructions assigned to the possible rolls (you can do a single die or two). Pass out the gifts randomly, then take turns rolling the die to see what to do with the gifts.

Your instructions should include things like gift swapping, passing to the left or right, and unwrapping. Add variations by having a single person pass or everyone in the group. For unwrapping, you can do the gift in front of you or choose someone else. Play a set number of rounds or until all presents are unwrapped. It’s up to you if you want to take opened presents out of play or leave them there to steal!

Dice gift exchange game rules
Get this printable for your dice gift exchange game from PrairieArrowDesign on Etsy

Add an extra challenge

Really make your guests work for their presents by playing more challenging gift exchange games. Send them on an epic hunt or test their knowledge to earn their reward. Make gift-giving more of an adventure!

🔎 Scavenger Hunt

Why give gifts when you could hide them instead? There are a few ways to turn your gift exchange into a scavenger hunt. The party host can hide all the gifts and let guests search them out. When a guest finds one, they choose to take it as theirs or leave it hidden to find a different one. No peaking at what it is, though! They must judge by the wrapping only if they want to keep it.

Or, have the guests hide their own but write a clue for the location. Then, put those clues into envelopes and pass them out for guests to begin their treasure hunt. If your space is big enough, you could hide both the clues and the gifts! Reserve one smaller space for hiding envelopes for guests to find, then send them out to the next area to hunt down their present.

💁 Holiday Trivia

See how much your guests know about common (or uncommon if you want to make it more difficult) holiday facts. You can have categories like Christmas carols, movies, traditions, etc. For each question asked, the first person to raise their hand and answer correctly chooses a gift to open. As play continues, White Elephant rules apply. Those with correct answers can steal or choose a new gift.

Bring in a pro! Add some extra entertainment by hiring an emcee or comedian to host your trivia challenge. They know how to keep audiences engaged and laughing!

Find comedians on GigSalad
Find emcees and comedians like Sib Raza on GigSalad

🧶 Cobweb Gift Exchange

This gift exchange game is similar to a scavenger hunt but more chaotic, which makes it better for smaller groups. Here’s how it works! Buy balls of yarn or craft string in different colors—one for every guest. Tie one end of the yarn to a gift and hide it. Then unspool the yarn, creating a path back to your main area. Make the path more difficult by going over, under, and around furniture and other obstacles.

Once each gift is hidden and trails have been made with all the colors, assign guests a color to follow to their present. As the party host, sit back and enjoy the laughs as you watch them untangle the web you weaved! This game is especially great at a Christmas party for kids.

Create an interactive experience

Test your guests’ listening skills by adding an interactive element to your gift swap. While these still have some similarities to your classic holiday gift exchange games, they take it a step further by challenging everyone’s ability to focus on what they’re hearing.

Settle in for storytime

Stories and magical tales are an integral part of most holiday traditions. So, why not add a touch of whimsy to your gift exchange by adding a storytelling twist? Make it extra special by hiring Santa or Mrs. Claus to handle the reading and pass out presents!

📖 Listen for Your Word

For this gift exchange idea, you must choose a holiday story to be read aloud. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is the most popular option, but any short story or poem will do. You could even write your own family story!

Choose unique keywords that are spread evenly throughout the story. Write them on slips of paper and have guests draw a word. When they hear it during the reading, they get to choose a gift to open! You can also add White Elephant rules and include steals.

⬅️ The Left-Right Game

For this gift exchange game, your guests will sit in a circle with the gift they brought. Someone will read a story containing the words “left” and “right” repeatedly. When each word is said, participants pass their gifts in that direction. Once the story is over, everyone opens the gift in front of them!

If you’re feeling creative, you can write your own left-right story. Just ensure there are enough cues, and they don’t alternate evenly so everyone ends with a different gift than they brought. Or, find one online. We like this free printable from It’s Always Autumn.

Book Santa to help with your holiday gift exchange games

Put on some music

Let your favorite holiday tunes guide your gift exchange! Incorporating Christmas music adds a joyful element to your party. Consider hiring a live musician like a singing pianist or guitarist to enhance the experience and lead the challenging listening games.

🎁 Musical Gifts

This game is as simple or complicated as you want to make it. The easiest thing to do, and what is best for kids, is just to put gifts in a circle. Play music as the guests walk around them. When the music stops, they keep the gift closest to them. Easy peasy!

If you want to add a bit more of a challenge, choose a song with specific keywords and share them with the group. Have everyone sit in a circle and pass gifts clockwise as the song plays. When you hear one of the keywords, switch to counterclockwise. And so on and so on until the song ends, and everyone keeps the gift they end up with.

🎹 Name That Tune

This is like the trivia challenge mentioned above, but you’re specifically testing their knowledge of popular Christmas tunes. Start playing a song until someone raises their hand to identify it. Pause the song to get their answer. If they’re right, they pick a present to open. Then move on to the next song. Keep going until all the gifts have been opened.

It’s up to you if you want to allow steals instead of choosing an unopened gift. One fun variation requires the guest who identified the song to finish the next lyric to steal a gift. You could also make the whole game about finishing the lyrics instead of naming the tune if you want more of a challenge.

Book live musicians for your holiday party on GigSalad

Give your gifts a theme

Deciding what to bring for a gift exchange is the hardest part of attending holiday parties. Help your guests out by choosing a theme ahead of time, whether it’s the type of item or where they should buy it.

Pick a category

Bring order to the gift-giving chaos by limiting guests to a certain category for their gifts. Not only does this make picking a gift easier, but it can also often create an even playing field for spending.

🤪 Gag Gifts

Sometimes the perfect gift to give someone is simply the gift of laughter. Forget the serious and sentimental, and go for a joke instead. It can become a game to see whose present can get the biggest laugh. And the great thing about gag gifts is they’re often budget-friendly.

💞 Shared Interests

Think about what you and your guests have in common and use that to choose a gift theme. Do your friends and family members love board games? There are lots of fun options out there that would make great presents. Are you hosting a group of bookworms? Everyone can bring their favorite books for a gift exchange.

🎄’Tis the Season

Draw inspiration from the season itself with a holiday theme. Keep it general, or choose a specific type of holiday item for everyone to bring. Christmas ornaments, ugly sweaters, and socks are all great Christmas gift exchange ideas.

🍫 Eats & Drinks

If you have a bunch of foodies in your midst, then use that for your holiday gift theme. Guests can bring their favorite chocolates and candies to be gifted or do a cookie or recipe swap! Craft beers, wine bottles, and drink-related accessories are another appropriate theme if there are drinkers in the group.

Keep it cheap

We know money can be tight around the holidays, so asking people to shop for a gift exchange might be tough. Choose a budget-friendly theme and add a touch of charm and resourcefulness to your festivities.

🔨 DIY Gifts

For those crafty groups of friends, DIY gifts are a fun and inexpensive way to wish someone a happy holiday. Whether they knit blankets, create a photo book, make a custom painting, or craft cute jewelry, their recipients will feel special. You could even do a Taylor Swift friendship bracelet exchange!

💵 Discount Stores

Holiday parties and gift exchanges are really more about the activity and memories than the actual gifts, so keep it low-budget by asking people to buy from their local Dollar Tree. Or, Five Below for the big spenders. You’ll get some laughs over what people come up with from the limited selection!

🔀 Regift Swap

We all have those items sitting around the house that we got from previous gift exchanges that were never put to good use. This is your chance to unload them! Decide in advance and tell the participants if the gifts should be nice, silly, or useful.

Read this post: Hosting a Christmas Party at Home on a Budget

Share the love

Make your gift exchange a heartfelt affair! Choose a theme that goes beyond the wrapping paper and adds a personal touch. This can include buying presents for those they love most or even supporting your community.

🥰 Personalized Presents

There’s nothing quite as special as receiving a gift that is meant just for you. If you’re doing a Secret Santa gift exchange, ask guests to buy custom-made things like jewelry, candles, and household items that are personalized to the recipient. This is also a great way to support talented creators on Etsy!

🐶 Pet Love

Perhaps your human guests already have everything they need and would prefer to dote on their furry friends instead. If so, exchange gifts that the Secret Santa’s fur baby can enjoy. You could do toys, treats, and more. Oh, and don’t forget to invite your four-legged friends to the party!

💎 Local Treasures

If you don’t want to limit guests to a gift type, then limit where they buy them. Request that everyone purchase their Secret Santa or White Elephant gifts from a local business, artisan, or restaurant. This is the one theme where gift cards could be an appropriate option!

This holiday season, make your gift exchange unforgettable with these creative and playful ideas. Whether you’re a seasoned gamer, a trivia whiz, or just looking for a good laugh, there’s a game for everyone. So, gather your loved ones, spread the joy, and let the unwrapping festivities begin! 🎁

Ready to book something awesome for your holiday party? Find the best musicians, performers, and event services on GigSalad.

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