Gift exchange rules
The gift exchange party is the most common way to share unique white elephant gifts among groups of family and friends. These events are held during various holiday celebrations and for office parties, family and class reunions.
The most common and popular gift exchange is the Secret Santa gift swap game. It is primarily used to exchange gifts directly from one person to another. This activity is akin to the standard name draw exchange that many groups use to establish the rules of gift purchasing among groups during important life events. But before we move into the rules of Secret Santa we will start with the most common rules of all gift exchange games, parties or events:
The Name Draw or Drawing Name Exchange
The name draw style gift exchange is used as a means to save money among members of various sized groups. Rather than purchasing a present for everyone, the name draw system randomly parses out the gift purchasing responsibly evenly between each member of the group. This helps with the gift giving budget because each person only purchase one gift for one person in the group.
The main rule of the name draw is that all members of the groups put their name into a common holding area. This holding devise could be a hat, or a box, or a bucket. Newer online versions of the name draw exchange uses an electronic mimic of the hat using special randomizing name drawing software. Instead of names written on slips of paper, the group adds the names electronically on a website. Here is a fun site the shows a virtual hand going into the hat and pulling out a name. The online party version of these name draw systems can really be described as a fun generator for any name draw exchange.
There are several online name draw sites that will help simplify your name drawing and simple gift exchanging events. Here are some links to those that we found in a quick Google search for Name Drawing, Secret Santa Name Generator and Random Name Draw Generator:
You can use many of these simple and free online tools to randomly select the names for your name drawing events and never draw names from a hat again. No matter what name holding devise that you use, the rules for the gift exchange remain the same; one name drawn for each potential gift to be shared, so that everyone gets a gift.
The Secret Santa Gift Exchange or Secret Kris Kringle
The next level up from the family name draw is an group gift exchange activity known as the Secret Santa Exchange or in some other parts of the world, the Kris Kringle Gift Exchange. As we mentioned before, the Secret Santa is the most used style of gift exchange in the world.
The main difference between a standard name draw gift exchange and a Secret Santa exchange is the idea of secrecy. In a Secret Santa event the members of the group draw names just like any name draw activity, but you don’t share who you are purchasing an item for. The internet also provides a few online secret Santa organizer sites that can help put the party together. We have listed a few of them here for you to explore:
Kris Kringle gift exchange
NOTE: the Kris Kringle gift exchange is popular in the UK and Australia.
The secret Santa gift exchange follows the same rules as the regular name draw, so there is one item per each person in the group. The parings are selected randomly from all members of a group and there is still the expectation that each person will purchase and deliver a gift to another person. The unique rule in a secret Santa event is that the random name selection is secretive. There are version of the secret Santa that involve providing clues as to how the shoppers are, with guessing and questioning opportunities provided to ad to the fun. Some secret Santa exchanges use the rule that no item can be shared until a certain date and time. This is usually a rule when the gift exchange is a part of a group party of other event.
Gift Exchange games that involve random gift swapping
The most complicated set of rules for gift exchange activities are associated with gift swapping parties. The most common of these swap or “stealing” parties is the White Elephant gift exchange party, but there are at least 22 other party games that use the same basic rules. Here is a list of the various titles of gift swapping parties:
Scottish Gift Exchange
Chinese Gift Exchange
Thieving Secret Santa
Rob Your Neighbor
Snatchy Christmas Rat
Rob a Santa
The Grinch Game
No matter the name, the rules follow a basic format and require each members attendance at a group event or party activity. There is even an online white elephant gift party called AlbinoPhant, that also uses these same basic rules of play:
White Elephant Gift Exchange common rules
The rules for a white elephant gift game are pretty standard. All invitees to the party must purchase a gift for sharing. The item should be something that all would find interesting or unique, because nobody knows which gift will eventually be going home with which person. Unusual gifts are great for these gift swap parties because they really help get the conversation going and make the party more interesting.
Gifts at the White Elephant party are required to be wrapped so that the contents will be a surprise when it is opened. There should be no identifying marks on the item so that the purchaser remains anonymous to the other attendees at the gift exchange event.
The game begins with a random name draw for all those in attendance, in order to select the first player. From this point the game allows gifts to be opened and to be “stolen” , which is the term used to describe the gift swapping rule of the game. Any item that is opened can be stolen on any players turn. Another basic rule concerning stealing is a restriction that stops any player from stealing-back a gift that was just stolen from them. The final common rule of the game is that once a item has been held by 3 people it is “frozen” from the stealing process for the rest of the game. This rule does not apply in the case of a white elephant gift exchange game titled Commando, where stealing is allowed up until the end of the game, no matter how many times the item goes around the room.
One final rule that is common in these white elephant style events is the “first shall be last” rule. This rule says that the first person that opens a gift is given the last chance to exchange any item that is not frozen. This rule is used to reduce the possibility of the first person missing out on all of the action, if nobody every steals their gift. There is a school of thought that suggests that this rule is lame, so you can make the decision to use it or not.
There you have it… The most common rules of the Gift Exchange, from simple name draws to complicated gift stealing exchanges. You can find very complete details of the rules for each of the exchange activities here on this site.
If you have any thoughts, additions, corrections or suggestions, please add them here in the comment box.
Have a great time at your group gift exchange party and remember to play by the rules!