8 Christmas Gift Exchange Games for a Holly Jolly Present Swap

Level up your holiday gift exchange with games and activities that are sure to bring out the joyful spirit in everyone.

Updated November 2, 2023
Family opening Christmas presents together

Go way beyond the standard trading of presents with some fun and creative ways to exchange gifts with family or co-workers this year. All you need is a little inspiration to take your Christmas gift exchange to the next level this holiday season. We're all about playing some festive games that make swapping presents even more exciting.

Creative Christmas Gift Exchanges

Get ready to have a little fun. While not all of these ideas are perfect for every situation, they are guaranteed to be a good time for everyone.

Need to Know

For each exchange method, you need to decide on a price point and have everyone purchase a gift to exchange that is plainly wrapped without a tag. Then it's all about choosing your favorite game.

Musical Gifts

Musical gifts works super well when you have several people exchanging gifts. You need music (Christmas carols would be a nice touch), all the gifts at the ready, and one person to run the music to get started.

  1. Have everyone stand in a circle.
  2. Give one person a gift.
  3. Start playing music and have the participants pass the gift to the person to their right for as long as the music plays.
  4. Stop the music.
  5. The person holding the gift when the music stops, opens the gift, and leaves the circle.
  6. Add another gift.
  7. Keep playing until everyone has a gift.
  8. Everyone gets back in the circle holding their opened gifts, and the music is played.
  9. The gifts are shuffled until the music ends.
  10. When the music stops, each participant keeps the gift they're holding.

Hot Bow

To play the hot bow gift exchange game, you need music, a designated person to run the music, and a large, red bow.

  1. Have everyone stand in a circle.
  2. Give one person the bow.
  3. Start the music, and everyone should start passing the bow around the circle to the right.
  4. When the music stops, the person holding the bow must choose a person to get a gift.
  5. The person that opens the gift is then out.
  6. Continue playing until everyone has opened a gift.

Blind Gifts

The blind gift game puts a new spin on pin the tail on a donkey. You need a blindfold, a table with gifts, a hat, numbers, and several self-adhesive bows.

  1. Number enough strips of paper for the gifts.
  2. Mix them up in a hat and have everyone choose a number.
  3. The person with number one goes first.
  4. Put the blindfold on the person and hand them a bow.
  5. Spin them around three times and send them toward the gift table.
  6. The gift they put their bow on is theirs to open.
  7. Continue until everyone has opened a gift.

Guess the Gift

Another gift exchange idea that's always a good time is guess the gift. For this gift exchange, you need the gifter to create 5-6 clues about the type of present that's inside. You want the clues to be a little challenging.

  1. Choose a gifter randomly to present their clues.
  2. Have the gifter read their clues out loud, very slowly.
  3. The first person to guess what the gift is gets to open it.
  4. That person will then present their gift clues.
  5. Continue the game until all gifts are opened.

Roll-a-Gift Exchange

For this fun Christmas gift game, you'll need wrapped presents for everyone and some dice. It's super easy to play, and the numbers on the dice will tell each person what to do with the gift.

  1. Give each person a gift and a die.
  2. Take turns going around the circle.
  3. When it gets to each person, they roll the die to see what to do with their present.
  • If they roll a 1 or 2, they open the gift.
  • If they roll a 3 or 4, they swap gifts (opened or unopened) with someone else.
  • If they roll a 5, they swap with the person to their right.
  • If they roll a 6, they swap with the person to their left.

Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas With Printable Instructions

When it comes to a fun Christmas gift exchange, you have your pick of awesome, traditional ways to swap presents. These include Greed, Secret Santa, and Grab Bag. Get step-by-step instructions for these celebrated gift exchange games below. If you need help downloading any of these printables, check out these helpful tips.

Secret Santa

This common type of exchange begins long before the party starts. It helps you get to know the other party-goers a bit better and break the ice. It works great for office parties and smaller social gatherings.

  1. Ask everyone who RSVPs for the party if they would like to participate in the gift exchange.
  2. Tell each person who would like to participate to provide a list of three things they would like, and give a price limit, such as $30. This helps people who have no idea what to buy and prevents people from giving or receiving bad Christmas presents.
  3. Compile a spreadsheet of participants and their gift preferences. Cut the spreadsheet into strips and place the strips in a hat or bowl.
  4. Have each participant choose a name out of the hat. Tell them not to reveal their matches! Allow them to redraw if they draw their own name.
  5. At the party, have everyone place their wrapped gift for their matches under the tree, with the "to" part of the gift tag filled out but the "from" part left blank.
  6. Have participants open their gifts one at a time. After each gift is opened, have the person guess who their "Secret Santa" is. Those who guess correctly win a small prize, such as a bottle of lotion or a candle.
Quick Tip

We love the idea of doing a virtual Secret Santa too! If you can't meet in person, have everyone buy a virtual gift or send the gift to one another ahead of time. Then do a video conference to open the gifts.


You can play greed with any number of people, and this game is usually talked about long after the party is over. If you have a large crowd, this game could potentially take hours.

  1. Note in your party invitation that everyone should bring a wrapped gift and give a dollar amount limit for the gift. Tell guests not to put any names on the gifts.
  2. At game time, count the number of guests present, and ask each person if they brought a gift. Tally the number of gift-bringers and put that many numbers into a hat or bowl.
  3. Have each person participating draw a number and hold on to it.
  4. Place all the gifts in the middle of a table or on the floor, with the guests surrounding so that everyone can see.
  5. Have the person with number one pick a gift and open it, showing the gift to everyone else.
  6. After person one leaves the circle, find out who has number two. This person has the option to either steal person one's gift or take a new gift out of the center.
  7. If the person takes one from the center, play continues to the person with number three. If the person steals player one's gift, player one takes a new one out of the center.
  8. Player three can either take one from the center or take player one or player two's gifts. If player one or two have their gifts stolen at this point, they can take gifts from the middle or from the other players who have already opened gifts.
  9. Play continues in numeric sequence until the last gift is opened. Each player can steal from previous players or take from the middle, but taking from the middle is the only way to truly progress the game. This is why it can take hours.

It's a good idea to set some ground rules before you play, or this game can get ugly. For example, most hosts will put limits on the number of times a popular gift can be "stolen," or it will simply progress around the circle in perpetuity. Also, it's a good idea to state that you can't steal back something that's stolen from you, or you could end up with a tug of war.

Quick Tip

We like playing Greed with a theme in mind, like gourmet food items (check for allergies first), great books, or even gift cards.

Grab Bag

This game can be expensive for the host, but it's easy to play. The host purchases inexpensive gifts equal to the number of party-goers. It's smart to buy a few extra for people who neglect to RSVP.

  1. Wrap all the gifts before the party and place them in a large box or bag.
  2. Hand each guest a playing card as they arrive at the party.
  3. At exchange time, pull out a second deck of playing cards.
  4. Pull a card out of the deck and hold it up. The person with the matching card pulls a gift from the bag, leaving it wrapped.
  5. Continue pulling cards until everyone has a gift; if there are leftover gifts, reshuffle and continue. Some people may end up with two gifts.
  6. After all the gifts are chosen, give guests five minutes to trade their still-wrapped gifts with other attendees.
  7. After five minutes are up, everyone opens their presents.
Quick Tip

It can be fun to throw in some "gag" type gifts to get some laughs. Judge how risqué you can be based on the guests at your party. Some hosts choose to have only gag gifts in the grab bag just to get some laughs out of the attendees.

Present Exchange Guidelines & Tips

By putting guidelines in place before the party and during the exchange, everyone is way more likely to leave the party with a festive memory and fun gift. Keep a few helpful tips in mind:

  • Whatever type of gift exchange game you choose, always let guests know ahead of time. No one wants to be left out because they didn't bring a present.
  • Providing spending guidelines is also important. Otherwise, one person could get a fancy watch while another ends up with a box of cereal.
  • Set up anything you need for the game ahead of time, such as a Christmas playlist, supplies like dice or printables, or anything else that might make it go more smoothly.
  • Serve plenty of festive food and drink during the party, so it's not just about swapping presents (though we love a good gift exchange).

More Than a Simple Christmas Present Exchange

We love watching people laugh and have a good time while they're opening presents. The key to making your present swap more than just a simple exchange is adding a little extra fun to the mix. Christmas gift exchange games make it easier than ever to bring an element of playful surprise to your standard holiday event.

8 Christmas Gift Exchange Games for a Holly Jolly Present Swap