You run into this dilemma every year: You know you need to buy Christmas presents for your holiday party, but you hate shopping. This makes a lot of sense given the hassle of going to malls and stores. You have to wait in long lines, hunt for bargains, rummage through increasingly empty store shelves, listen to hours of endless Christmas music and – perhaps most importantly – spend money. But present shopping doesn’t have to put a damper on your holiday spirit. The simplest solution is for you and your fellow party-goers to agree to buy only one present each. This easily saves you some trouble, but will the gift exchange be just as fun? It can be if you get creative with your game, and we’re not just talking about doing the time-honored Secret Santa where you pick names out of a hat, either. Here are a few fun Christmas gift exchange ideas, courtesy of Utah NBC-affliate KSL.
Before you begin
To help make sure that everybody buys similar presents, it’s useful to agree on a few ground rules ahead of time. For starters, there should be set limits on how much presents cost so that no one buys gifts that are too extravagant or too cheap. If folks need help getting really creative, you can add another caveat by agreeing on a theme for gifts. These may include exchanging only music, movies, food, ugly Christmas sweaters, secondhand gifts, items mentioned in Christmas songs, or gifts that are red or green.
Finally, make sure everyone wraps their presents. After all, the suspense of ravenously tearing through gift wrap to unravel the mystery beneath is part of the fun.
Play games, old and new
- White elephant. This is a real classic where everyone gets a number and dumps their gifts in a big pile. In numerical order, people choose a gift from the pile to unwrap. If they don’t like what they have, they can “steal” a present that’s already been unwrapped, and anyone who loses a gift gets to pick another. No gift can be “stolen” more than three times, and the game ends once everyone has a present.
- Christmas carols. Write the first few lines of different Christmas tunes, and put them in a bag. Write the next few lines down on other pieces of paper and attach them to each gift as guests arrive. When it comes time to exchange gifts, have each party goer pick a slip of paper from the bag, and find the gift that has the rest of the lyrics attached. For extra fun, make it a rule that no one can open their present until they sing that song. Be creative with your song choices, too. You can pick religious classics, such as “We Three Kings;” contemporary classics, such as “White Christmas;” or modern-day pop gems, such as Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” or Tori Amos’s “Pink & Glitter.” The Huffington Post has some great ideas.
- Left/right. This is especially fun if you have a writer in the party. Choose one person in the group to write a very short story containing multiple uses of the words “left” or “right.” Before having this guest read the story out loud, have everyone sit in a circle with a present in hand. As the story is read, everyone switches their gifts to the left or right of them, and when the story ends, they open the last present in their hands. This story works better if the uses of the words “left” and “right” are unequal.
- Charity exchange. This one requires no presents at all. Have everyone write down the name of their favorite charity to put in a hat. At exchange time, everyone draws from the hat and makes a donation to that charity in honor of the one who requested it. For those who need help deciding on a charity, websites like Charity Navigator have tips which charities are the most reputable, based on how they spend their money.