5 Ideas For Last-Minute White Elephant Gifts

Man wearing a Santa hat and fretting over a clock he's holding, which shows that Christmas is almost hereSo, you’re a big procrastinator. Or your White Elephant invitation got lost in the mail (yeah, right). Now it’s time to come up with a gift – and fast.

If you have a couple of days to order something and wait for it to arrive, no problem. Just pick something from this list of top White Elephant gifts.

But that’s probably not why you’re here. No, you’re here because you have to have something right away – as in, “I need to walk out the door right now and just get something!” Fortunately for you, there are still options, as long as you’re willing to get creative and make some compromises.

Since you’re in such a hurry, let’s get straight to the last-minute White Elephant gift ideas. These are all options that you can probably pick up right now.

1. Mix-a-Six from the liquor store. Many liquor stores allow you to create your own six pack with individual beers of your choice. If alcoholic beverages aren’t an option, you might be able to do the same with bottles of high-end soda at your local grocery store. Time permitting, you can take the additional step of dressing up the bottles in festive fashion (here’s a tutorial on making “reinbeer”).

2. Lottery tickets. This intriguing option for a gift exchange can be found at any convenience store counter. Most people love the idea of a big payoff, even if the odds aren’t great.

3. Gift card. Okay, a gift card isn’t the most thoughtful choice in most cases. However, you can make it more exciting by putting it in creative or even misleading packaging (for example, try putting it in a big box before wrapping). It’s also ideal if the gift card is for a local business that most people at the party are familiar with.

4. Something from the grocery store’s gourmet section. You can usually find Christmas candy and popcorn tins at any decent grocery store, but if you want something unique, check out the gourmet section. You might be able to find some appealing food items that people don’t routinely buy for themselves, such as imported olive oil, fine cheeses, and artisanal bread.

5. Homemade coupons. The idea is to create your own coupon or coupon book with IOU’s for future favors. For example, if it’s an office party, you make a coupon offering Starbucks delivery. If it’s for friends or family, it could be something like a foot massage. Obviously, you need to exercise good judgement on what to offer, and make sure you’re willing to follow through. For nice-looking coupons, look for a printable online (here’s one option).

If none of those work for you, here’s one bonus idea – re-gift something you already own. No matter what you end up bringing, keep in mind that a White Elephant gift exchange is really about people getting together and having fun over the holidays. No one should expect to walk away from a gift swap with a valuable prize, so don’t worry too much about it.

Good luck with your last-minute gift hunting – and Merry Christmas!

Finding a White Elephant Gift Around the House

Small present with festive Christmas interior in the backgroundSome people are old-school when it comes to White Elephant gift exchanges. To them, the idea of shopping for a present is absurd. No, a White Elephant gift should be something useless laying around the house – the shabbier, the better.

Of course, just because you’re old-school doesn’t mean everyone else is. Before you start ransacking your basement for something to bring to the upcoming gift swap, you should pause to consider whether used items are welcome. If there’s any doubt, you might want to lean toward bringing something new, just to be on the safe side.

With that caveat out of the way, let’s talk about White Elephant gift ideas from around the house.

You know the saying: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The item you’re looking for could be a perfect example of that. Or it could be something that’s just plain funny. Here are some options to consider:

1. Christmas Decorations. If you’re like most people, you have unwanted Christmas decorations gathering dust in a box somewhere. Some may even be on the corny side, which is pure gold for a White Elephant gift.

2. Food. Your pantry is a potential treasure trove of misfit food items. Anything from old canned goods to leftover Halloween candy could make for a great gag gift.

3. Gift Cards. Maybe it’s a gift card to a store you don’t like or a restaurant that isn’t in your area. Or maybe you just haven’t gotten around to using it. In any case, a gift card that’s just sitting in your junk drawer could be a sought-after item at a gift exchange.

4. Kitchen Gadgets. That quesadilla maker seemed like a good idea at the time, but now it’s just taking up space in your cupboard. Why not pass it along to someone who will appreciate it (at least for awhile)?

5. Alcohol. Buying wine and liquor can be a real crap shoot. If you have a bottle of alcohol sitting around that you regret buying, consider putting a bow on it and bringing it to the gift exchange. Don’t let the fact that it’s half-empty stop you.

6. Funny Photo. First, find a funny picture or printable on the internet – or better yet, print out a goofy photo of yourself. Then put the picture in an old frame you no longer need.

7. CDs/DVDs/VHS Tapes. Most of us who are over 20 have piles of unwanted and outdated media stored away in our homes. These can make good gag gifts, especially if you can find a cheesy and/or nostalgic title to give. The fact that people might not be able to play the media is beside the point.

8. Coffee Cup. Novelty coffee mugs make easy, no-brainer gifts, which is why many of us end up with more of them than we need. Pick a humorous or tacky one from your collection and re-gift it.

9. Clothing. Bringing clothing to a gift swap is normally a big no-no, as people differ by size, gender, and style. But for a gift exchange where no one expects to walk away with something valuable, pretty much anything goes. So feel free to re-gift that loud sweater you’ve never worn (provided you don’t need it for an ugly sweater contest, that is).

10. Homemade Gag Gift. One classic gag is to put some batteries in a plastic bag with a note reading “Toy Not Included.” For other options, check out this article on homemade White Elephant gifts.

Those are just a handful of the more obvious ideas for White Elephant gifts you can find around the house. Once you start rummaging around, who knows what prizes you’ll find!

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.

The Ornament Exchange Game: How to Play

Cute little kitten batting a red Christmas ornamentOrnaments will always be popular gifts around Christmastime, for reasons that are easy to understand. They symbolize the holiday season more than almost anything else. They fit into the perfect price range for token gifts. And, unlike many gift options, just about everyone can use one more.

For all those same reasons, a Christmas ornament exchange game is a fitting – not to mention fun – activity for a holiday party. So, how do you play? Well, for better or for worse, there’s no one “official” set of ornament exchange rules. If you’re hosting an ornament exchange party, here are some options to choose from:

White Elephant Ornament Exchange

Perhaps the most common type of ornament swapping involves the familiar “stealing” mechanic of a white elephant gift exchange. Players bring one wrapped holiday ornament, then take turns either opening a new gift or stealing a previously opened one (for detailed rules, see our main article). As with all gift exchanges of this type, it helps if the ornament pile includes a mix of the desirable, the undesirable, and the downright funny.

Ornament Exchange Poem

Ornaments work especially well for a left-right passing game, which revolves around the reading aloud of a special Christmas-themed poem. In this game, people sit in a circle and pass gifts left or right according to cues in the aforementioned poem (you can find the rules and a sample poem in this article). The main advantage of this game is that it goes quick, even with larger groups. Because it’s straightforward and not at all competitive, it also allows for both kids and adults to participate.

Pick an Ornament From the Tree

In this simple ornament exchange game, participants bring unwrapped ornaments and hang them on a Christmas tree as they arrive (a miniature tree that can fit on a tabletop is often best). People then take turns picking the ornament they would like from the tree. One fun alternative is to blindfold players and have them feel for an ornament – just like Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

Random/Grab Bag

Okay, this one stretches the definition of “game.” However, if you’re looking for a truly simple way to dole out the ornaments, just randomize it. One way to do this is to assign a number to each wrapped ornament, then have players draw to see which one they get. Another option is to put the ornaments in a large sack and let players reach in and blindly take one.

Of all the great things about ornament exchange games, perhaps the greatest is that they make it easy for everyone to participate. By specifying the type of gift to bring, there’s less shopping and decision-making involved. You can even ask people to re-gift an ornament in their collection – because hey, who doesn’t have a few to spare?

Of course, it’s even easier on guests if the host provides all the ornaments. That’s probably not an option in most cases, but it could be the right choice if it’s a smaller group and/or you have the budget. Even if ponying up for everyone’s ornaments isn’t feasible, you might want have a few extra on hand in case people forget.

For more ideas on hosting an ornament exchange party – or any kind of gift exchange, for that matter – check out this article. Good luck, and Merry Christmas!

7 Ideas For a Fantastically Tacky Christmas Party

Goofy guy wearing party hat with Christmas wreath around his neck as he holds up two golden balloons at a Christmas partyChristmas is the one time of the year where everyone has permission to be tacky. In fact, it’s hard to avoid, seeing as how so many holiday rituals involve glitter, loud colors, and mushy sentiments. So rather than resist the cornball charm of the Christmas season, why not embrace it in all its gaudy glory?

That, in a nutshell, is the rationale behind tacky Christmas parties. This aggressively festive party theme is associated with things like white elephant gift exchanges and ugly sweater contests – but there’s so much more to it. To illustrate, here are seven tacky Christmas party ideas that poke fun at some of the holiday’s most splendiferous traditions.

1. Send out tacky invitations

The first step to hosing a truly tacky Christmas party is to send out invitations that let your guests know what they’re in for. Whether you’re sending paper or electronic invites, try using clashing colors, funny characters, and sparkles – lots and lots of sparkles – to grab their attention. Throw in some groan-inducing puns to top it off.

2. Turn the party venue into a festive eyesore

Whether you decide to deck the halls with shiny tinsel and flashing lights, or just put up a few funny holiday props, your choice of decorations is important for setting an appropriately tacky tone. Fortunately, when it comes to tacky Christmas decorations, there’s a lot to choose from. In fact, you probably already have a few “treasures” from yesteryear stored somewhere in your house.

3. Run an ugly sweater contest (duh)

This one’s a no-brainer – in fact, it’s the whole point of many tacky Christmas parties. Be sure to have some suitably tacky prizes lined up for the contestants (don’t worry – they needn’t be expensive). Consider giving out a prize not only for the ugliest sweater overall, but for different categories such as “Most Colorful” and “Best Homemade Ugly Sweater.”

4. Serve “tasteless” food and drink

I don’t literally mean “tasteless,” of course. What you’re looking for is yummy food and drink that fit your tacky theme. This could include kitschy holiday favorites such as cheese balls, fruit cake, and the like. Or it could be a funny presentation, like mustachioed gingerbread men or wine bottles adorned with miniature ugly sweaters.

5. Put together a funny holiday playlist

There are oh-so-many Christmas tunes to choose from when putting together a playlist for any holiday party. You can always include the sentimental favorites, but for a tacky Christmas gathering, be sure to also make room for the goofy, the corny, and the downright hilarious. Some good choices include “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” “Hanukkah Song,” and “Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo.”

6. Have guests play goofy Christmas-themed games

Along with the usual gift exchange and ugly sweater contest, consider running other Christmas games that encourage people to drop their inhibitions and get silly. To name just one example, you could have a contest to see who can unwrap a present the fastest while wearing mittens. Obviously, the best games to play depend on the makeup of the crowd, so do your research and collect some ideas before deciding.

7. Make sure your gift exchange is tacky, too!

Even if you’re just using the basic rules for your gift exchange, you can be sure that many people will show up with a variety of presents, including the always popular (and often tasteless) gag gifts. However, if you want to push the tacky theme to the max, add a little twist to the rules. For example, you could ask participants to bring re-gifts, homemade creations, or even ugly Christmas ornaments.

These tacky Christmas party ideas are all worth considering, but they’re only the start. For more tacky holiday inspiration, just look around – there are schlocky signs of the season wherever you go!

Gift Exchanges: How Early is Too Early?

Two hands holding up a sign reading Save The Date with Christmas lights in the backgroundIt’s called “Christmas Creep.” Every year, the holiday season seems to start a little bit earlier. If you’ve noticed rows of artificial Christmas trees butting up against racks of Halloween costumes, you know exactly what I mean.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re really into Christmas (guilty). But it can lead to some premature anxiety about the upcoming holidays. This is especially true if you’re involved in organizing a gift exchange or other event.

The truth is that getting started early – at least in terms of planning your gift exchange – offers plenty of advantages. That said, if you’re worrying about a Christmas party that’s still months away, stop. The whole point of getting a head start is to avoid the stress that comes from putting things together at the last minute.

Here are my thoughts on the timing of a holiday gift exchange, in terms of both planning and scheduling.

Planning Early

At the risk of stating the obvious, organizing a gift exchange is a lot of work. You could probably jot down a lengthy to-do list off the top of your head – but guess what? No matter how thorough you are, there are always hidden details and complications that pop up as you go.

Beginning the planning process early – even if it’s just to spitball ideas – can give you a better perspective on the whole project. That can pay off big time when laying out a schedule. You’ll want to have ample time to come up with theme ideas, order party supplies, and send invites, while also allowing for a decent-sized window for participants to shop for presents.

Of course, getting your planning done early also gives you flexibility in scheduling the gift exchange itself. Whether you should take advantage of that flexibility is another question.

Scheduling Early

The holidays are a busy time for everyone, not just those of us who have gift exchanges to organize. Having your gift exchange sooner rather than later can be helpful for people who have trouble fitting everything in. That could mean a better turnout, and better turnout usually means a better time had by all.

An earlier gift exchange may also catch people before “Christmas fatigue” sets in. In other words, your invitees may be in a more festive mood at the start of the Christmas season, before they get overwhelmed with parties, decorating, shopping, dealing with kids on break, and everything else that the holidays entail. If nothing else, guests might put more thought into the gifts they bring if they’re not hurrying to buy them at the peak of the shopping season.

On the flip side, some might roll their eyes at the notion of having a gift exchange closer to Thanksgiving than Christmas. I’m not talking about all-around Scrooges (we all know one), who won’t be happy no matter when you have your Christmas-related event. No, I’m talking about people who just take a little more time to get into the Christmas Spirit – in other words, folks who aren’t very fond of Christmas Creep.

When it doubt, it’s always a good idea to take a quick poll of your invitees. Every group is different, and what meets with approval in one case could produce a very Grinch-y reaction in another. Good luck!

5 Ways Kids Can Participate in a Gift Exchange

Young girl wearing Santa cap while holding a stack of colorfully wrapped Christmas giftsHoliday gift exchanges are supposed to be fun for all, but there’s one group that tends to get overlooked. In case you missed the headline of this article, I’m talking about kids.

The problem is, it’s not exactly ideal for children to participate in a gift exchange as players. This is especially true for White Elephant, where most of the gifts are likely to be grownup-oriented (plus, who wants to steal from an 8-year-old?). But really, any type of mixed-age gift exchange is tough to pull off, especially if the kids are really young.

You can always put out some coloring pages and treats, or leave it to the fates and hope the kids entertain themselves during the gift swap. But a much better idea is to come up with a way for the kids to actively participate in the fun (without actually swapping). Here are a few ideas for “jobs” you could give the little guys and gals in attendance:

1. Assistant

The most straightforward option is for each kid to help a grownup. At its most basic, this could mean unwrapping presents – something every kid loves. For White Elephant and similar games, it could mean advising the grownup on which presents to keep and which ones to swap. Obviously, for this option, you need an adult who’s willing to be a good sport and give up some of their autonomy.

2. Referee

If the child is old enough, you could print out a list of the gift swap rules for them to read at the outset (if more than one kid is present, have them take turns reading lines). For a left-right gift exchange, the child could read the story. Kids can also be helpful announcing whose turn it is, showing people where to sit, and other small-but-important tasks.

3. Gift Passer Outer

Many kids have lots of experience at this from previous Christmases. Even young children can pass out gifts, and it’s a great way to make them feel included and part of the “action.”

4. Wrapping Paper Collector

At first glance, cleaning up might not seem like a fun activity for a kid. However, when colorful wrapping paper is involved, it might be a different story. Just don’t be surprised if the wrapping paper winds up in a heaping pile instead of in the trash.

5. Gift Exchanger (Kids Division)

If you have enough kids, consider conducting a separate gift exchange just for them. You can simplify things by making it a Secret Santa, musical chairs game, or left-right story that doesn’t involve swapping. Hold the kiddie gift exchange before the grownup one so the children can get their toys ASAP.

If you don’t have enough kids or a kiddie gift exchange just doesn’t seem feasible, consider buying small, inexpensive gifts for the kids to open right before the grownup gift exchange.

One final word of caution: Gag gifts are common at most holiday gift exchanges, and many of the most popular novelties are on the naughty side. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether such items are likely to show up, and whether it’s a big deal for the kids and their parents. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and come up with a separate activity to keep the children distracted.

Obviously, not all of the above suggestions are going to work for every kid, or group of kids. Whether you’re the party organizer or just a parent, it’s worth thinking of ways you can include the kids in your gift exchange fun – or at the very least keep them entertained. Not only will it make things more fun for them, but it will likely make the gift exchange go more smoothly.

10 Reasons to Get Excited About Your Office Gift Exchange

Business woman holding her hands up in excitement as she reacts to an unwrapped Christmas gift sitting in front of herNot really feeling your office gift exchange this year? You’re not alone. Whether it’s a general distaste for gift exchanges or the whiff of obligation that hangs over every “fun” workplace activity, lots of people drag their feet when this holiday tradition rolls around.

You can always find an excuse to skip the Christmas party. Or you can go through the motions, dutifully buying your gift while trying to conceal your resentment at having to participate. But a third option – one which I heartily endorse – is to think positive, focusing on all the ways a workplace gift exchange is actually worthwhile.

Easier said than done, right? Well, to help you get the scrooge out, here are 10 reasons I can think of to be pumped for this year’s office gift exchange.

1. Not all workplaces have one.

What’s worse than working for a company that has lots of “extracurricular” activities like Christmas parties and gift exchanges? Working for one that doesn’t. Throwing an office party around the holidays used to be standard, but these days, many companies are leaving it out of their budgets.

2. You might learn something new about your coworkers.

Who knew that Fred in Accounting had such a lowbrow sense of humor? Who would have guessed that Sally from Human Resources had such a competitive streak? You might be surprised at what a rowdy gift exchange can teach you about your coworkers.

3. You might find a new lunch buddy.

One of the things you might learn about a coworker is the fact that you actually like them! Okay, so you’re probably not going to walk away from the Christmas party with a new best friend. But you might break the ice enough to sit down to lunch with someone you’ve never really talked to before.

4. It’s only X dollars.

One source of resentment for a lot of people is cost. Some people just don’t like the idea of having to spend money to participate in a workplace activity. Well, assuming the price limit has been set appropriately, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Your company is probably spending a lot more money per person to host the party.

5. It’s only a short amount of time.

If you’re really having a hard time shrugging off that bad attitude, remind yourself that the gift exchange doesn’t last that long and you can always soldier through. Once you recognize that, you may actually start to lighten up about the whole thing.

6. It will get you in the Christmas spirit.

If you’re not feeling very jolly this year, taking part in a gift exchange could be just the thing to defrost your inner Kringle. With luck, that feeling will carry all the way through December, helping you get the most out of the holiday season.

7. It’s healthy, low-pressure competition.

I’m not going to suggest that a White Elephant or similar gift exchange game can help you work out all those interoffice rivalries and personality clashes. But it can take some of the edge off. When you’re competing for things like toilet mugs and giant Snickers bars, it puts workplace conflict in a different perspective.

8. You might actually get something you like.

Let’s not ignore the obvious. While you can’t count on it, there’s a chance you could walk away with a nice consolation prize for participating in the gift exchange. Of course, you should also prepare yourself to react appropriately if you wind up with a gag gift.

9. It’s only once a year.

This isn’t just true for the gift exchange, but for the holidays as a whole. It’s a busy time of year, and it’s natural to balk at the idea of squeezing in one more activity such as a workplace gift exchange. But as with every Christmas season, it will all be over in a blink – so try to enjoy it while it lasts.

10. It’s fun – seriously!

No matter how jaded you are about office gift exchanges, there’s a very good chance that you’re going to have fun in spite of yourself. It may take a few gag gifts getting opened, the infectious laughter of a coworker, or even a little eggnog, but it will happen. So you might as well let go of those scrooge-ish feelings now so they don’t put a damper on your holidays.

I hope some of these ideas help you get into a festive mood your office gift exchange. In any case, good luck and Happy Holidays!

The Left-Right Christmas Game: Pass It On!

Christmas ribbons pointing left and rightSome people jump at the chance to participate in a White Elephant, Secret Santa, or similar Christmas gift exchange. But others? They’d rather pass.

Pass the gift, that is.

Gift passing games can take a lot of different forms, but the most familiar one involves a colorful Christmas-themed story or poem. These types of games are quick, low-pressure, and ideal for large groups. And if you’re the one running the show, the best news of all is that they’re dead-simple to set up.

How a Left-Right Christmas Game Works

As with other gift exchanges, each participant brings a wrapped gift of a value determined by the organizer ($10 or $20 is typical). The game begins with people sitting in a circle holding their own gifts. Then someone reads a poem or story with many occurrences of the words “left” and “right.” Participants follow these verbal cues, passing gifts to their left or right until the story ends and each person keeps the gift they’re holding.

The only “trick” here is to make sure gifts don’t wind up back in the hands of the people who brought them. To prevent this, you might want to count the number of lefts and rights in your story to figure where the gifts are going to wind up, based on how many people are in the circle. If you’re not sure how many players you will have, you can always reserve an optional line of the story in case the gifts find their way back home. For example: “And with that, there’s nothing LEFT but to open the gift you’re holding.”

A (Left-Right) Christmas Story

The only criteria for a left-right (or, if you prefer, right-left) Christmas story is that it contain lots of gift-passing cues. Of course, there are bonus points for stories that keep people amused while they pass their gifts. Here’s one example of a left-right story you can use for your party (click here for a print-friendly PDF version):

Suing Santa

Once upon a time, there was a lawyer named Bob RIGHT. His son’s name was Bill RIGHT, and together, father and son started their own law firm named RIGHT, RIGHT, & Associates.

RIGHT, RIGHT & Associates was famous for lawsuits that LEFT people penniless. They LEFT the Easter Bunny penniless when they sued him for the rancid eggs he LEFT in a child’s basket. They LEFT the Tooth Fairy penniless when they sued her for the insufficient compensation she LEFT under a child’s pillow.

But the biggest target of all was still LEFT – Santa Claus. He, too, would be LEFT penniless… if everything went RIGHT.

The father and son team found just the RIGHT client in an 8-year-old girl named (appropriately enough) Sue. Little Sue was upset that Santa had LEFT coal in her stocking last Christmas. RIGHT, RIGHT, & Associates argued that their client had been put on the naughty list without cause. They presented lots of evidence that the girl did everything RIGHT the previous year.

The only thing LEFT was for Santa to testify. Jingling all the way, he marched RIGHT up to the witness stand, raised his RIGHT hand, and swore to tell the truth. Santa said that while it might appear that little Sue had done everything RIGHT, there was one thing she did that LEFT him no choice but to put the girl on the naughty list.

“This can’t be RIGHT!” protested Bob RIGHT.

“We LEFT no stone unturned in our investigation!” said Bill RIGHT.

All this courtroom drama LEFT Sue shaking with excitement. “All RIGHT, I confess! On Christmas Eve, I got up in the middle of the night and ate the cookies that were LEFT for Santa! I didn’t think there was enough time LEFT to be put on the naughty list!”

Santa responded RIGHT away: “Ho ho ho! Little Sue, I keep the naughty list in my LEFT pocket at all times so I can make revisions on the fly!”

And with that, the law firm of RIGHT, RIGHT, & Associates was LEFT with no choice but to drop its frivolous lawsuit against Santa. And that year, neither Bob RIGHT nor Bill RIGHT was surprised to find that Santa had LEFT them coal in their stockings. But little Sue was shocked to wake up on Christmas morning to find that Santa had forgiven her for the frivolous lawsuit and LEFT her a nice, shiny present RIGHT under the Christmas tree.

“I’m glad Santa LEFT the naughty list in his LEFT pocket this time!” said Sue. “Now let’s see what he LEFT me!”

Of course, this is far from the only left-right Christmas story out there – I’ve linked to some other examples from the Resources page. If you have the time, you might even try making up your own story. That way, you can make it an inside joke about people and subjects that are well-known to the participants.

I hope this article has given you some ideas that are RIGHT for your next holiday gathering. Now there’s nothing LEFT for me to do but wish you luck, and a very Merry Christmas.

8 Fun Family Gift Exchange Ideas

Closeup of three people exchanging Christmas giftsGetting together with family is what the holidays are all about. But buying for them? For many of us, that’s tough.

Maybe there are so many people in your family that it’s too expensive – not to mention time-consuming – to buy for everyone. Perhaps there’s a wide gap in what different family members are willing or able to spend, leading to awkwardness when gifts are opened. Or maybe repeating the same ritual every year has simply gotten boring.

These are some of the reasons why family gift exchanges are so common. A well-planned gift exchange takes a little of the stress out of Christmas shopping, while adding entertainment value to family gatherings. If that sounds good to you, here are eight fun family gift exchange ideas to consider this holiday season:

1. Drawing Names

Let’s start with the standard choice. Many families draw names out of a hat every year (often at Thanksgiving), with each person buying for only the person whose name they get. The price of the gift is set at a level that everyone can afford, but is often high enough to buy something nicer than the typical token present. Each participant may make a wish list of things they want/need to pass along to the person who’s buying for them.

A simple name-drawing isn’t the most exciting option, but it neatly solves the problem of having to buy for too many people. Plus, it can easily be combined with some of the other ideas below.

2. White Elephant

You knew this one was coming, right? A White Elephant game is another mechanism for giving and receiving gifts among family members – one that adds an element of competition. The “official” version of White Elephant offers plenty of entertainment, but you can spice things up by combining it with other ideas here and elsewhere on this site.

3. Secret Santa

A simple twist on name-drawing makes Secret Santa one of the most popular types of gift exchange. Instead of revealing which name they drew, participants keep it a secret until the gift is opened at the family Christmas gathering. In the meantime, the “Santas” may leave clues (often in the form of poems) for the people they’re buying for. After each person opens their gift, it’s traditional for them to attempt to guess who their Secret Santa was.

4. Grab Bag

It doesn’t get much more straightforward than this. People simply bring a wrapped gift, which is placed in a bag or otherwise kept hidden from view. Then each person chooses a gift based solely on what it feels like on the outside. Finally, people take turns opening their gifts while everyone else watches. Participants are encouraged to contribute unusual or intriguingly shaped gifts, or to package them deceptively for maximum surprise value.

5. One Big Gift

What if everyone skipped buying gifts altogether and pooled their money for something everyone could enjoy? That could mean renting a hot tub, getting tickets to a sporting event, or some other special treat. This one isn’t always possible because of the difficulty of getting everyone on the same page, but when it works out, it can be great.

6. Charitable Giving

While it could take many different forms, the idea is simple: rather than buying presents for each other, funnel the money you would have spent to charitable causes. One way to do this is to adopt a family for Christmas (there are many programs to facilitate this). Another option – one that incorporates name-drawing – is to make a donation on someone else’s behalf to a charity you think they would appreciate.

7. Musical Gifts

This idea is borrowed from baby showers and children’s birthday parties, but there’s no reason why it can’t work equally well for a Christmas party. Each person brings a wrapped gift to add to the pile, as with the White Elephant game. However, instead of picking their presents, people pass a gift along while a (Christmas) song plays. When the song stops, the person holding the gift gets to keep it.

8. Gift Theme

Whether it’s White Elephant, Secret Santa, or just name-drawing, you can make things more interesting by requiring gifts to fit a particular theme. There are too many possibilities to list, but here are a few to get your imagination going:

Made in America. The goal is to support American businesses – or businesses from England, Australia, or wherever you live – rather than buying imported products. You could take it one step further by having everyone buy from local businesses.

Board Games. The beauty of this theme is that you can select a board game (or five) to play after the gift exchange. If you haven’t noticed, there are many great board games on the market for both kids and adults, with more coming out all the time.

Gift Card Exchange. Granted, this isn’t the most inspired idea. However, if you want to make gift-giving as easy as possible, have people buy gift cards. This works best with White Elephant, grab bag, or some other type of game.

Crafts. This is a pretty common gift theme – so common, in fact, that I wrote a whole article on homemade gifts.

As you can see, these family gift exchange ideas range from the obvious to the off-the-wall. But each of them, in their own way, makes family gift-giving a bit more fun and manageable. Good luck, and Happy Holidays!