From Secret Santa to Yankee Swap: Holiday Gift Exchange Ideas

By: Scott Davis | December 17, 2014

We all know that giving is better than receiving, but there is an added element of fun to both when you get together with friends, family and other loved ones for entertaining (and sometimes raucous) gift exchanging activities. Such activities usually require a small amount of money out of your pocket (if any at all), but can get awfully creative. The following list provides a few examples to get your creative juices flowing. Have some fun this holiday season!

Secret Santa is probably the most common/popular of gift exchanging ideas. In the most basic cases, you round up a group of participants, put everybody’s name in a hat (or bowl, or bag or whatever you heart desires) and each person draws a name. The next step is simple enough; you proceed to buy a gift for the person whose name you drew. Do not tell the person you bought for them until it is time to exchange gifts. In a lot of cases, a price limit is set. We all know the rules.

Yankee Swap can get interesting, very quickly. Everybody brings a wrapped gift. This game starts by the players randomly drawing numbers to determine their swap order (from one to the total number of participants). The person who drew number one gets the first choice of choosing a present and unwraps it. The second person can then choose to pick another wrapped gift, or swap a wrapped gift for the opened gift, and so on and so forth. This game works best with at least six people, but the more the merrier! I suggest watching NBC’s “The Office” episode about this topic on Netflix.

White Elephant is essentially the same concept as Yankee Swap, but the difference generally lies within the type of gifts given. White Elephant gifts are generally gag gifts—funny, weird, unorthodox or unusual gifts that will make you laugh. Best to play with a group that has a sense of humor. It is a perfect “re-gifting” opportunity as well.

Ornament Exchange can also be a great idea. This doesn’t take much explaining: buy a nice ornament (set a price limit) and choose a person (or draw a person’s name) to swap with. People collect ornaments and use them as keepsakes, so it is a swell idea. The ornaments shall be hung on Christmas trees for years to come!

Holiday Cheer Exchange may be the most festive and least known exchange idea on the list. Everyone brings a wrapped gift (again, setting a price limit is a good idea). Somebody comes up with a certain holiday-themed criteria (you can take turns coming up with said criteria)—such as people who have decorated their Christmas trees already, those who have holiday lights outside, those wearing a Santa Claus hat, etc.—and tell those people to stand up. The people who are standing up swap gifts with each other. Sounds fun enough.

Some local stores to try for creative gifts:

The Rocket Candy & Novelties, 23147 Woodward Ave., Ferndale

Pure Detroit, 500 Griswold St., Detroit (The Guardians Building), and 3011 W. Grand Blvd. #101 (New Center Place Shopping Center)

City Bird, 460 W. Canfield St., Detroit

Rail and Anchor, 502 Washington Ave., Royal Oak

Make sure everybody walks away with a gift if you host one of these these gift exchange activities. Remember, it’s about giving—so make it memorable and fun (but not too expensive). From everybody at “In the D,” happy holidays, Metro Detroit.