Gift giving should be joyous, not stressful, which is one of the reasons holiday gift exchanges are so popular. Because you’re only buying one gift, you’re saving both time and money — and the actual exchanging of gifts is a Santa’s sack full of fun. Put the festive in festivities by hosting a party based on one of them — just add some fun holiday decor, set out some red wine and green-bottled beer (such as the Heineken shown here), and you’re ready to go. Get our top 5 gifts below, brought to you by Evite in partnership with Heineken. Ho ho ho!
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Secret Santa: The granddaddy of holiday gift swaps, this exchange is one of the simplest. Participants place their names into a hat, then draw the name of the person they will be buying a gift for. A price limit should be set, usually $20 at the office, more if you’re playing with family members or close friends. Gifts are then given at a predetermined time, such as at the office holiday party, or they might just be left on the recipient’s desk. Some groups choose never to disclose who the Secret Santa is, while for others the reveal is part of the enjoyment of the game. Another variation is for participants to include three gifts they would like to receive on a slip of paper along with their name, which can be especially helpful at the office, where co-workers might not know someone well enough to be comfortable selecting a gift. Best played with: just about anyone
Yankee Swap: Possibly the most popular exchange, the Yankee swap has numerous variations, but here are the basics: First off, you’ll need at least six participants to have an enjoyably spirited swap, and a price limit should be set. Participants are given an order in which they can choose from the pile of wrapped gifts. After the first person chooses and opens her gift, the second player has a choice of “stealing” the first person’s gift or choosing a new gift from the unopened pile. When a person’s gift is stolen, she can choose to steal from someone else or take another unopened gift from the pile. Play continues in the designated order until every participant has had the option of stealing or choosing. Variations on the game include limiting the number of times a gift can be stolen or a player stolen from, not being able to “steal back” a gift that has just been stolen, and whether or not you can swap a gift after you have already opened it from the pile. In order to avoid any hard feelings, it’s best to clearly state the rules beforehand or things could get decidedly Grinchy. Also, beware of playing with young kids, who may get upset over a stolen gift. Best played with: colleagues and co-workers
White Elephant: A variation on the Yankee swap, a white elephant exchange is focused on the fun of the game itself, not in “winning” the best gift. In that spirit, oddities, knickknacks, and even re-gifts can be wrapped up for a white elephant, as opposed to the purchased items of a Yankee swap, although a price limit should still be set. If pure fun is what you have in mind for your group, then a white elephant exchange should be at the top of your party-planning list. Best played with: colleagues, co-workers, and friends
Dirty Dice Gift Grab: This exchange is another twist on the Yankee swap. Everyone brings a wrapped gift and places it in a pile. The first guest rolls a pair of dice; if they get doubles (for example, two 6s), they get to choose a gift from the pile, but they can’t open it. If they don’t get doubles, they pass the dice on to the next player. Play continues in this way until all the gifts from the pile are claimed. (It’s okay if some guests end up with several presents while others have none.) Some choose to open gifts at this point, while others wait till the very end — up to you. Next, set the timer for anywhere between five and 15 minutes, depending on how long you want to play, and have the next guest start rolling the dice again. Every time someone gets doubles, they can steal a gift from another player. Play continues until the time is up. At the end of the game, some may choose to redistribute presents so those with more than one gift share with those with none; your call. Best played with: colleagues, co-workers, and friends
Holiday Auction: Here’s a way to really get everyone involved and the merriment flowing! Each participant brings a few small, unwrapped gifts or one large one, which can be store bought, re-gifted, or even handmade. A wrapped mystery gift can also be added to the mix. The gifts are laid out for everyone to admire, and each participant is given a set amount of play money (dip into your Monopoly set or make your own). Then the bidding begins! One person acts as auctioneer, bringing each item up for participants to bid on with their play dough. Once the bids get rolling, you just might find out that someone in your group is far more competitive than you thought! Best played with: family and friends.
Want more reasons to gather together for the holidays? Check out our 31 Days of Party interactive calendar for occasion ideas.