How to Host an Office Holiday Gift Exchange



The holidays are here and its time to start thinking about how your business will celebrate this year (if you haven't already). You can invite everyone out for dinner, host a happy hour at a local bar or perhaps cater lunch one day. Consider also having employees participate in a gift exchange, it’s a great way for team members to get in the holiday spirit and even share a few laughs over some gifts. 

The Basics of a White Elephant Gift Exchange
A White Elephant Gift Exchange is a popular holiday game that includes a healthy dose of competition to walk away with the best gift. This gift exchange can be played by a lot of different rules, or none at all. It can be simple or complex.

Select a budget
Whether it’s $5, $10 or $20 give participants a max budget of what to spend for this holiday exchange, this way no one person is stuck with a lump of coal while another is polishing their diamond. Just make sure everyone brings their gift wrapped, half the fun is guessing who bought what gift to the party.

Pick a theme
You can have no theme and let imaginations run wild or your can make it easy for participants by picking a theme, feel free to get as specific or as vague as you want. Here are some of our favorite ideas. 

Favorite Kitchen Gadgets
we all have that one gizmo that helps make cooking,
baking or grilling easier, let the team share theirs.

Hand Made Anything
from friendship bracelet to paint on canvas let your teams
creativity shine with a handmade theme.

Gag Gifts  
whether it’s a pin cushion doll or a passive aggressive coffee
mug this theme is a great way to have your team’s personality
and sense of humor shine through.

Re-Gift It
we’ve all gotten a gift or two that we really didn’t need or
want, this is a great way for your team to clean out their closet
and get in the holiday spirit! Have everyone bring in one
unwanted item that they’ve been gifted to throw into the pool.

Draw names
Have everyone draw names from a hat to determine what order they’ll be picking their gift in. Or the organizer can decide in advance the order everyone will take their turn.

How to play
Once everyone is ready to begin have the first person select their gift from the pool and open it, making sure everyone can see the gift. When the next player goes they can either pick an unwrapped gift or steal the previous player’s gift. If a player got their gift stolen they can either, choose a new gift or steal from someone else. At the end the first person has an option of either keeping their gift, or stealing someone elses.

There’s no wrong or right way to play, so feel free to make it your own. Some common variations involve limiting the number of times a gift can be stolen or a person can be stolen from. You can also choose not to let the first person steal another player’s gift at the end of the swap. Another fun way to play is by doing a Left-Right story where participants sit in a circle with a gift and pass it left or right, when the story ends that’s the gift they keep. Here’s a great story you can use of Lefty the White Elephant.


Whether you call it Dirty Santa, Yankee Swap or Rob Your Neighbor this popular holiday gift swapping game is the perfect way to help you and your team to get into the holiday (and giving) spirit.  How will you and your business be celebrating this year?

Sasha Surman