3 Gift Exchange Games For Large Groups

Illustration of a large pile of Christmas gifts arranged to look like a Christmas tree, with a star on topI hate to say it, but there are situations where a White Elephant gift exchange might not be the best choice for a holiday gathering. One of those situations is when you’re dealing with a big group of people and a limited amount of time. With all the turn-taking and gift-stealing, a game of White Elephant can get unwieldy when a lot of people are playing.

So, what are some good Christmas gift exchange games for large groups? To my mind, the qualities we’re looking for are:

  • Fast-moving, with little or no decision-making involved
  • Suitable for people of all stripes
  • Conducive to mingling and getting to know people (admittedly a tall order, but especially desirable for office parties)

White Elephant can meet those criteria if you tweak the rules to limit trading. But if you want a gift-swapping game that’s tailor-made for a crowd, consider one of these options:

1. Prearranged Gift-Swapping

The rules and can be customized to your liking, but the idea here is simple: Gift-swapping is dictated by you, the host, rather than through the slow process of players taking turns. Perhaps the most popular way to do this is to have people sit in a circle and pass gifts according to cues in a story or poem (see this article on the left-right passing game for details). While there’s not a lot of interaction under these rules, the game goes fast and will keep any Christmas party on schedule.

Another option is to assign each player a number and have them swap according to predetermined instructions (again, using cute rhymes works best). If you have a little more time, you can allow players to make some of their own decisions. For example, you could give a player the option to trade with anyone wearing a Santa hat, or anyone not wearing red.

2. Musical Gifts

The best part of this type of game is that it allows you to incorporate everyone’s favorite holiday songs. Just have people sit or stand in a circle and pass a gift around as a Christmas classic plays. When the music stops, whoever is holding the gift gets to keep it (and goes out of the game).

To make it more fun, you can unwrap the gift before passing it around. When a gag gift is revealed, watch as it races around the circle like a hot potato.

3. Secret Santa

Secret Santa works well with larger groups for a couple of reasons. One, most people are at least somewhat familiar with it, so there’s less confusion about the rules. And two, each instance of gift-giving is between only two people, so you don’t need to have everyone’s attention for a long period of time.

There are lots of flavors of Secret Santa, but one that’s worth considering for office gift exchanges is the “conspiracy” version. In this game, people are divided into small groups, each of which is assigned a single person to buy for. It’s up to each group to decide on an appropriate gift – great for team-building and just getting to know each other.

As you may have noticed, gift exchange games for large groups generally require more preparation in advance. If you’re the one in charge of organizing things, remind yourself that it’s well worth the effort. Party goers are always a little more jolly when things run smoothly.


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Roberta Jeeves is author of the book White Elephant Gift Exchange: Rules, Themes, and Ideas for Hosting a Perfect Holiday Gift Swap. You can buy or borrow it at Amazon.com.

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