So you’ve volunteered to organize the Christmas gift exchange for your office/family/group of friends. What have you gotten yourself into? The holidays are hectic enough without taking on this enormous responsibility.
Actually, it’s not that bad. We can’t promise that planning a Christmas party will be a stress-free undertaking, but the gift exchange piece is pretty straightforward. Here are the basic steps you need to follow.
Holiday gift exchanges go by a lot of different names: Yankee Swap, White Elephant, Dirty Santa, Greedy Punter, and many more. You may want to pick the name that people in your area are most familiar with. On the other hand, you might decide to go with one name over another for stylistic reasons.
The basic rules of a gift exchange are simple, but there are many variations. Read through the rules and decide exactly how the swap will proceed. Be sure to set a price range, and optionally consider adopting a theme for the exchange.
Will the gift exchange be the only structured activity at the party? A lot of people combine their gift exchange with an ugly sweater contest and/or other fun activities. Alternatively, you may decide that the gift exchange is enough and people can just hang out before and after.
Ideally, you want an area large enough for all the participants to sit in a circle so they easily see everyone else’s gift. With smaller groups, this could be someone’s living room. For a larger party, you might have to put some thought into how you’re going to get everyone where they need to be.
It’s up to you to decide whether it’s appropriate to send out written invitations or a simple email invite. In either case, make sure the invite prominently displays the price range and theme (if any) for the gifts. You don’t need to include the actual gift exchange rules – just mention that it’s a Yankee Swap/White Elephant/whatever and let people Google the basics if they need to. If people are lost, you might want to suggest a website where they can find great gift ideas (hint hint).
Need more help with invites? Check out our how-to guide.
You’ll need some way to randomly determine the order in which people pick their gifts. If it’s a small group, you just need to pick who goes first – then proceed clockwise around the room. For larger groups, you should have a hat ready with everyone’s name, or numbers for people to draw. You could also determine the order ahead of time using an online random name picker or somesuch, but where’s the fun in that?
But first, read off the rules so everyone knows what is and isn’t allowed. Some people might not have participated in a gift exchange before, while others may have specific ideas about how things are supposed to work. Don’t be overly detailed or you’ll lose everyone’s attention. Keep it simple and give people an opportunity to ask questions before getting started.