A couple of years ago my mom and nephew devised a clever version of a holiday gift exchange. The two collaborated on a fun and classy twist to an old game that has become a Christmas Eve tradition.
The game is also known as a White Elephant exchange or (much to my mom’s chagrin) Dirty Santa. Everyone brings a wrapped gift and there’s a monetary limit of $10 or $20 These are quite often inside jokes or silly gifts.
But because my mom is a classy lady, she buys all of the gifts in early December. What kind of gifts does she get?
- A bottle of wine
- A beautiful scarf
- Little plants
- Kitchen tools
- Warm socks
- Two scone mixes
- A real lump of coal
- Kitchen towels
- A new book
- $20 cash
- $50 cash
- A coffee mug
See? Those are nice gifts. They are placed in paper lunch bags, and then the game begins.
- A deck of cards
- Two (2) gifts for each person
- Plain paper bags, or small decorative bags of your choice
- A friendly and festive attitude
Buy the gifts and place them in plain paper bags. Fold the tops of the bags over (or seal) so no one can tell what’s in the bag.
Play The Classy White Elephant Game
There are two “rounds” in this Christmas Eve Gift Exchange: a round of cards, and an exchange round.
The Card Round
- Place all the paper bags in the center of the floor.
- Pick someone to be the dealer.
- The dealer shuffles the cards and gives each person two cards.
- The person with the total closest to 30 wins this round, and picks one bag to open.
- The person who won the round shows the gift so everyone can see. This becomes important in the exchange round.
- Continue dealing cards until all bags are picked and opened, and everyone can see all gifts.
The Exchange Round
- Everyone decides if they will keep all of their gifts or if they’ll exchange.
- Most likely, anyone who gets cash is going to keep that one item. If I ever get the cash, I WILL be keeping it – you hear that, mom? Let’s make a deal so that I get the cash next year!
- The dealer does one more round of card dealing.
- The person closest to 30 goes first.
- They can keep both their gifts or exchange one gift for someone else’s gift. For example, “I’m exchanging my scarf for your book.”
- We do two to four exchange rounds to be sure everyone has what they really want
We have fun with this Christmas Eve Gift Exchange every year. One year I wasn’t able to be with family on Christmas Eve, so we used Face Time for me to fully participate.
Feel free to change the rules to meet the needs of your family, and most importantly, have fun!