No matter which you celebrate, the holidays are a magical time: The delicious food, visiting family, and creative presents make December one of our favorite months. However, holiday shopping can get stressful quickly—especially if you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel for creative gift exchange ideas for your friends and family. If you’re already feeling a little overwhelmed, we’ve got you covered.
We suggest injecting some fun into gift-giving with these inspiring concepts for all types of holiday parties. From heartwarming to funny Christmas gift exchange ideas, pick one of these 29 options to try among family and friends, co-workers, and the little ones.
01 of 29
Go With a Theme
If you want to make everyone’s shopping a little more fun, designate a theme everyone should stick to. For example, it could be “Made in the U.S.A.,” a theme that features items from across the country, or it could be “Anything Blue,” where you have to buy something in only specific that color. The best part is that you can be as tame or as wacky as you’d like.
02 of 29
Try a Gift Train
Sometimes all your loved ones aren’t in the same place, but this can make for a fun gift exchange. Here’s how it works: If you’re doing this with nine friends, you’d pack a box of nine presents along with a list of nine names and addresses, and send the box to the first person on the list. When they receive the box, they will pick a gift to keep and send the rest to the next name on the list, continuing the process until everyone has received a gift from each participant, and the box is empty.
03 of 29
Go in Together
Instead of getting individual gifts, why not pool your money to get something awesome for everyone to enjoy? It can be something soothing, like a spa weekend, or practical, like a fire pit for the family.
04 of 29
Since there are plenty of folks who are less fortunate than you may be, consider forgoing your gifts and giving back instead. One suggestion is for everyone at the holiday party to pick the name of someone in the group out of a hat. Once you’ve chosen, elect a charity that is special to you—say, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)—and make a donation in their name. At the “exchange,” you can all go around and share why you chose that cause.
Do a White Elephant Exchange
Ask each person to bring a wrapped and cheap gift and pick a number. The person who draws a “1” will choose a gift and unwrap it. The person who draws a “2” can then pick an unwrapped item or “steal” the first person’s gift. This competitive game goes back and forth until no one wants to take anyone else’s present. You’ll be laughing for hours, guaranteed.
Send a Secret Snowflake
There’s something special about a Secret Snowflake, especially when your group is large enough and can keep a secret (that’s key.) To make it a little more informative, have each person fill out a questionnaire about their gift preferences so their Secret Snowflake has some ideas of what to gift. At the party, take turns guessing who everyone’s Snowflake is. Feel free to set a price limit on presents, so no one feels awkward for how much they spent.
Let the Bidding Begin
Designate a price cap, and ask everyone to bring in an unwrapped present of their choice. Have a leader give everyone the same amount of Monopoly money. Each person goes up to the front to display the gift they brought, which is then “bid on” by the rest of the party guests. Whoever has the highest bid wins that gift.
Play Left or Right
Before the game begins, one guest comes up with questions that need to be answered with “left” or “right.” Each person starts with their wrapped gift in their hands, and items are passed back and forth as questions are answered. When there aren’t any questions left, the present in your hands is yours to open—and keep.
Do Something for the Kids
For the little ones (or young at heart), set up a row of chairs or pillows and place a wrapped gift near each seat. Choose music kids love, and stop the music sporadically, which is the signal for participants to take the seat nearest them. At the end, each child will be given the gift under or nearest to their chair or pillow.
Make sure parents stick to the price cap, so all gifts represent equal or similar value.
Take it Back a Few Centuries
Cobweb parties were big in the Victorian days. To follow this theme, get different brightly colored strings and weave them around each other all over one room. Then tie each string to one gift. Assign each person a colored string, which they must follow around the room to find the present attached to their string.
Personalize Your Presents
Like your favorite denim jacket or go-to workflow playlist, choose a signature gift to give those on your list. The item of choice is up to you; whether it’s a memento from your yearly international vacation or a beautifully packaged jar of jam and almond butter, a signature gift takes the guesswork out of giving.
Start a Treasure Hunt
“X” marks the spot to discover holiday gifts! Create a fun scavenger hunt with holiday-themed clues to lead participants on an interactive search for their gifts.
Spin the Bottle
You may associate this game with seventh-grade house parties, but it can also work for gift exchanges (without the kissing, of course). Gather in a circle and spin an empty wine or Champagne bottle that the crowd finished earlier to determine who gets to choose a gift from the pile first, second, third, and so on.
14 of 29
Consider the Pets
Don’t forget about your friends’ cats and dogs! If you’re feeling the furry love this year, opt to spend your hard-earned money on a custom pet bed.
Finish the Carol
This one is kind of like musical chairs, but with a funny twist. Choose a holiday song to play or sing, gather everyone in a circle, and have people pass a gift around. When the designated person stops the song, whoever is holding the gift has to finish the lyric. If they complete it accurately, they get to keep the gift.
Host a Cookie Swap
Everyone on the guest list has to come to the party prepared with their best cookies in hand. Once everyone arrives, you arrange all of the different types of cookies on a table, and every guest gets to take a few from each batch. The idea is that everyone only has to bake one kind of cookie, but leaves with a wide variety.
Consider your group’s dietary preferences when whipping up (or ordering) a batch of cookies, like vegan-friendly or gluten-free.
Guess the Gift
Ask gift-givers to wrap their presents of choice in a way that doesn’t reveal what it is, hold it up, and have people guess what it is. Dangle a few clues (or opt to cap questions at a specific number), and the first person to guess correctly gets the gift.
Swap Coffee Mugs
Whether or not you consider yourself a coffee or tea addict, you’ll love partaking in a mug swap with your friends and family. Every time you use it, you’ll think of your loved one, which will definitely make your hot beverage taste a little sweeter.
Try a Book Exchange
What’s the one book on your shelf you’d recommend anyone read? Whether it’s an autobiography, a dreamy work of historical fiction, or that horror novel that still gives you chills, have everyone bring in their favorite read for the gift exchange.
Prepare a Basket
Channel everyone’s inner foodie and ask participants to curate a gift basket filled with ingredients to make their favorite recipe. Also, ask them to include a recipe card and maybe a cooking playlist too.
Opt for Monthly Memberships
These days, subscriptions aren’t just for magazines. From cosmetics to coffee to wine, consider this one-time purchase—no gift-wrapping needed.
Have everyone in the gift exchange group create a fill-in-the-blank coupon that recipients can redeem at their leisure. Need some inspiration? How about a coupon for two airport pick-ups for the year or a coupon for a shoulder massage?
Bingo may have been around since the 1920s, but it’s still fun—especially when there are gifts involved. As bingo winners get called, they get to choose a gift.
Make It Fashion
Everyone loves a good ugly holiday sweater, right? Instead of having your guests show up in one, ask everyone to bring one (new or used) and give them to other guests. Hint: seek out the sweater that will garner the most laughs.
Have everyone get crafty and create something for the gift exchange. It doesn’t have to be huge or complicated—it might be a homemade card or a personalized pen holder.
Split up into teams for a game of holiday trivia, and the winning team gets to share a grand prize. It doesn’t hurt to think of a consolation prize, too.
Turn up the Tunes
Draw names and challenge each other to create a playlist for your chosen individual, then combine all songs for one memorable master playlist.
Try a Cocktail Swap
For the imbibers, ask everyone to create a “cocktail-in-a-box” of their favorite tipple using mini bottles, bitters, syrups, and other ingredients.
Pack for a Potluck
In lieu of a gift exchange, commune over everyone’s favorite holiday recipes, pick a day to gather, and enjoy each other’s company.
Leave a Reply