1. Each player brings a wrapped gift to contribute to the general fund.
The organizer of the gift exchange should provide information about which gift should be brought.
2. Players draw numbers to determine the order in which they will go.
Alternatively, someone can draw names from a hat, or the order can be established by the organizer before the event begins.
3- Players sit in a circle or in a line so they can see a pile of gifts.
For ease, everyone should sit in the order in which they will take turns.
4. The first player chooses a gift from the pile and opens it.
Make sure everyone can see the present!
Santa is standing next to the pile of presents and points5. The next players can choose an unopened gift from the pool or steal the gift from the previous player. The one whose gift was stolen can do the same – choose a new gift or steal from someone else.
There are some restrictions on gift exchange, so that the game doesn’t get bogged down:
A gift can only be stolen once at a time, which means that players who have had a gift stolen will have to wait to get it back.
After three exchanges, the turn ends automatically (otherwise things can drag on for a long time).
“Popular Variations” below for other possible turns.
6. After all players have taken their turn, the first player has the opportunity to exchange the gift they are holding for any other open gift. The person who had their gift stolen can steal it from someone else (as long as that person has not already been stolen). If someone refuses to steal a gift, the game ends.
Note that during this last “extra” turn the three-turn rule does not apply. Players can continue to trade until someone decides to stay away or until there are no more suitable people to steal from.
White Elephant Game Variation Ideas
Last year, I was tasked with planning a “White Elephant” office gift exchange party, and I kept coming up with ideas on how to make this unconventional game even more unique. Eventually, I made it my own by setting certain rules for gifts. There are many ways to make the game more fun, so put on your Santa hat and think like an elf!
Here are some options that can elevate your White Elephant organizer status from anonymous elf to Santa’s favorite helper:
Establish a theme for gift exchange: It can be puppies, vacations, or condiments-whatever! The original “White Elephant” requires you to bring an obscure item you received as a gift but didn’t use, such as the boiled egg slicer your grandmother gave you two Christmases ago. If you don’t want to end up with a pile of junk, ask participants to make wish lists online so you know you’ll bring a gift that someone in the group will be crazy about, as opposed to the nasty snowman who loved… well, whatever.
Don’t unwrap the gifts until the end: add an element of mystery to the game by keeping all the gifts wrapped until the last person. You’ll keep stealing wrapped presents from each other, but you won’t know what’s inside until you receive the gift. Expect lots of laughter when everyone opens their gift and realizes it’s not what they guessed. Funny gift wrapping will make this variation really funny!
Appoint a commentator: My friend, a White Elephant fanatic, says that having someone comment on the flow of the game will add another level of humor to the craziness of it all. Use your best auctioneer or sports commentator voice and get ready to announce the game behind the scenes. This can also be useful if you have a large company or are hosting an office party for remote employees online, as people may not see all the presents when they are opened.
Combine Secret Santa and White Elephant Gift Exchange: This may sound crazy, but what if each participant bought a gift for a specific person (like in a traditional Secret Santa gift exchange), and after everyone opens their gift, they can exchange it with others (like in a White Elephant game). It’s mind-blowing, isn’t it? Using the online Secret Santa generator will help you with organization so you can save your brain for the game.
Remember, the point of exchanging gifts in a White Elephant gifts game is to have fun, not to end up with the best gift. Sure, it would be great to get that awesome screwdriver with interchangeable heads, but if you can’t, don’t worry. A wise, green, and exceptionally furry man once taught us that Christmas is not about presents, right? Not everyone will walk away from this triumphant exchange, but everyone will certainly be pleased!