7 Fun & Creative Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas

art by jason

One of the best parts of Christmas is opening up an unexpectedly awesome gift from a thoughtful giver.

Even better is watching someone else open up the perfect gift you found for them.

Unfortunately, the gift-giving part of the holidays often contributes a big part of the stress most people feel during the season. It’s not easy trying to find something nice for everyone on the list while fighting the bustling, crazy crowds and keeping the budget from ballooning like Santa on post-Christmas cookie eating binge.

A lot of families save money by doing gift exchanges in which every person buys a gift for just one person, rather than everyone in the whole family. Names are drawn, a budget is set, and gifts are purchased.

It’s budget friendly, but can become a bit stale.

Here are some creative ideas for adding a fun twist to the standard gift exchange, most of which are brought to you by the awesome people who hang with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Alphabet Gift Exchange.
Draw names as usual, then have everyone select a letter of the alphabet and get a gift for their person that starts with that letter.

Around the World.
Get everyone to pick a different country (preferably not the one in which you live) and buy a gift that fits the country. Participants can choose their own country or draw one at random.

The Gift That Keeps Giving.
What about having everyone purchase a magazine subscription based on the interests of the recipient? Grandpa gets Field & Stream, Grandma gets Quilt Magazine, Aunt Jenny gets Epicurious, and your nephew Nicholas gets Sports Illustrated for Kids. Amazon.com has tons and tons of options.

Choose Your Own Theme.
In a similar vein, your family or officemates can decide on your own theme for the year. Then everyone’s gift needs to fit the theme. For instance, if you choose “red,” all the gifts need to be predominantly red (or feature the comedian Red Skelton, perhaps.) How about these ideas to get you started: Books. Soft. Shiny. Food. Wood. Old. Childlike.

Left or Right.
Designate someone to write a fun story that contains many instances of the words “left” and “right” (but not an equal number of times). Then have everyone buy a gift and have someone wrap each one in the same paper with no names on them. Every one grabs a gift, and as the story is read aloud, the packages are exchanged accordingly each time “left” or “right” is said. At the end of the story, the gift you end up with is yours.

Go Handmade.
Make a rule that everything has to be handmade. Of course, you could make it (or bake it) yourself, or you can choose to purchase something from a local artisan. Etsy.com is also a great place to find neat handmade treasures from talented folks.

Good or Gag.
For exchanges in which the gifts aren’t tied to a specific recipient, mix in some gag gifts with real good ones. Each person then picks their present based on packaging alone. Of course, you can modify and adapt any of the standard rules in the popular White Elephant/Yankee Swap tradition.

So there you go; a few ideas for sprucing up your family’s next Christmas gift exchange. Do you have any to add? Share yours in the comments!

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  1. Stephannie Brown says:

    For the last 4 years my office has done a DVD exchange instead of a White Elephant or Gift Exchange. The idea is to either buy a DVD under $10 or pull one from your own collection. Since it is work the DVD has to be G, PG or PG-13; nothing over that. Also it must be a movie, not a tv show. Depending on your co-workers likes you can add other rules, such as no Black and White, no Cartoons, etc.

    The DVD’s get wrapped or gift bagged. Everyone has fun with this, some get really elaborate with the wrapping. Then everyone turns in their DVD and gets a number. I make 2 sets of numbers. One number for the participant and the other (same number) for the drawing basket.

    Last year we went from having lunch, to having movie snacks and playing a holiday movie in the background…

    Once everyone has come into the room, got their snacks we start drawing numbers. That person goes to the pile of wrapped DVD’s and picks one – opens it and everyone ohh’s, ahh’s and laughs. It is really great when a big, strong guy picks “The Way We Were”….

    Actually we have one DVD that has been to each of the exchanges. “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”, we wrap it each year and someone always picks it. At the end of the exchange we give them the chance to pick door number 2. A second DVD that is a better selection.

    It is not a White Elephant Exchange and no one can steal the DVD, however at the end if anyone wants to trade after the exchange they may.

    Hope this helps give you a new office party idea….

  2. Carolynn says:

    We do a white elephant exchange, except that the everyone in the family draws a letter of the alphabet, then you have to get a $10(or as you can) gift card to a store that starts with that letter as your gift. Sometimes the selections are awesome, and sometimes they are to some place obscure. It is fun trying to think of the names of the stores. :)

  3. CookieMonster says:

    I have been to a few white elephant parties and most of the time the gifts that were being stolen the most were anything out of the ordinary. Usually something you don’t see every day that is still somewhat useful. With a gift limit of only $10, I was amaze at all the weird and wacky things I could get while keeping my bank account happy. I found this online store while doing a Google search containing many things that are just perfect for a white elephant party. The link is below and hopefully this helps with your future white elephant gift parties!

  4. Becky says:

    Our family has done several different gift exchanges. We have exchanged names and you were to buy an outift with accessories from the good will or thrift store that they could wear to their new years eve party. It was crazy funny. We then put our ‘new years eve attire’ on and had a fashion show. There was some really bad stuff and when it was done, we took a group picture. Everyone was really creative and we had lots of laughs. One year we had to buy one pound of something, ugly ornament exchange, ugly salt and pepper exchange. The last few years we have taken my dad’s name–Clair–and first year we had to buy a gift starting with C, second year with an L, etc. etc. Then we played pictionary game using words starting with C, L, etc.

  5. Ceecee says:

    One year we did a split exchange: everyone got a ‘nice’ gift, but then a $5-10 gift from a specific store: we then put crazy stores into the mix. I had to buy my brother a gift @ Claire’s; my dad scored @ Pep Boys & my hubby ended up w/ a 6-pk of wiper fluid!!

  6. Jason,
    These are some great ideas. Sarah and I collect and share variations of the white elephant gift exchange game on a website we call AlbinoPhant. We would love to be able to share some of your great ideas on the site.

    Here is a page with some other unique gift exchange ideas: http://albinophantblog.com/white-elephant-gift-exchange/white-elephant-gift-party-how-to-center/
    Please reach out and we will have you do a guest post explaining your ideas.


  7. Tracey says:

    Last year we did “In the Spirit of Christmas”, everyone had to bring in a “spirit” that was $20 or less.

    This year we’re doing tha alphabet game. You draw names and purchase a gift for that person that starts with the First Letter of their name.

  8. Kathy Lynn says:

    In our gift exchange this year, the gifts will be based on the five senses-everyone will draw a paper with one the senses- hearing, smell, touch,sight, and taste- and buy a gift related to that sense!

  9. Beth King says:

    Looking for a good theme this year for our family gift exchange…

    Last year the gift had to be made in the USA!!

    • Sonja says:

      I have been to several Christmas parties the best was a As seen on TV gift exchange…Last year we did a Re-gift party but the rules are strict. It has to be a unused gift, it has to be a nice gift, and it can’t be damaged! A gift you received that was a great gift but you just never used! There was some pretty good gifts there…

  10. chris says:

    We will often do a scavenger hunt-ish gift exchange. Everyone gets someone else’s stocking to fill, we go to our larger shopping mall, we have a time limit (like one hour) with rules like no gift cards or no jewelry and the task is to fill the stocking within one hour. Of course, no one wants to be seen, so we end up ducking behind other shoppers, running from store to store, sneaking down isles, etc. We keep our assigned stocking hidden until Christmas and that’s what our family Christmas gifts are (no other gifts allowed – that would be cheating!) and we all open them laughing at our antics with the stories just as much fun as the gifts.

  11. Janet says:

    My family did a “As Seen on TV” gift exchange. We limited it to $10.00 per gift. It’s amazing how many things you can buy without repeating. We had such a blast seeing what was bought and exchanged for.

  12. We play a game that goes with santas elves there is a story and it says things like the elf put it RIGHT under the Christmas tree


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kim and Jason, Paul Cox. Paul Cox said: RT @kimandjason: 7 Fun & Creative Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas: http://ow.ly/3f4CO […]

  2. […] Make a game of it: Get creative with your gift giving. Turn your shopping trip into a scavenger hunt. Have each participant in this swap draw a name and a letter. Find the perfect gift for your recipient that starts with that letter. Or check out one of these other fun ideas. […]

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