Make your Christmas party more fun with one of these Christmas gift exchange ideas! There’s something for everyone and every occasion from an office party to a small group party with friends and of course, family gatherings of all shape and size! Whether you just want a Christmas gift exchange theme or a fun game to play, this is everything you need to host the ultimate gift exchange this year!
One of the most typical things to do at a Christmas party is a gift exchange of some sort. Often times people play a gift exchange game of some sort (and if you’re going to do that, I have the best gift exchange games here), but sometimes you just don’t want to play a game.
I’ve put together a list of creative gift exchange ideas that aren’t all necessarily a game. Because let’s face it, sometimes you just want to exchange things without all the swapping and stealing.
Themes for Christmas Gift Exchanges
Let’s start with just some unique gift exchange themes. For this particular type of gift exchange, the idea is that everyone just comes up with gift ideas to bring that match the theme. I’ve put together a lengthy list of 22 theme ideas below, so pick which one works best for your group.
- A-Z – everyone brings a gift that starts with the same letter as the first letter of their first name (e.g., my name is Britni so I might bring a book, my friend Megan might bring mixing bowls).
- Favorite things – similar to how I did my favorite things party, have everyone bring their favorite thing as their gift and use that for the gift exchange. I recommend doing a left up to chance type of gift exchange like this Grinch gift exchange if you do this theme.
- Birth state – not to be confused with birthdate, everyone bring something that represents their birth state (e.g., I was born in Wyoming so I might bring some cold weather gear).
- Game night – everyone bring something that you might use for a game night whether it be their favorite board game, favorite game night snack, etc.
- Movie night – same thing as above but movie night instead of a game night. Think popcorn bowls, cozy blankets, movie trivia games.
- Christmas movie themed – you could pick any type of movie, I just went with Christmas. People should bring gifts that represent their favorite Christmas movie, not necessarily a movie itself. So this might be a Gizmo ornament for the movie Gremlins. You could do this with favorite movies, Disney movies, classic movies, etc.
- Disney themed – I said Disney but you could totally do this with any major franchise – Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc.
- TV or Streaming Network Themed – have people pick their favorite items from their favorite TV or streaming shows. I expect to see some great Schitt’s Creek gear, Ted Lasso quotes, and more!
- Favorite recipe exchange – instead of just doing a cookie exchange, have everyone bring samples of their favorite recipe plus a copy of the recipe to take home!
- Particular color – have everyone bring something that’s a particular color.
- Food themed – have everyone bring something that’s either a food item or something to do with food (e.g., the mixing bowls I mentioned earlier). Or you could pick a specific food like a candy cane that has to inspire their gift.
- Birth month – have everyone bring something that would be used during their birth month (e.g., July might bring sunglasses, December might bring ornaments).
- Rhymes with – give everyone an easy word to rhyme with (e.g., cat) and everyone has to bring something that rhymes with that thing in some way (e.g., hat, baseball bat, welcome mat).
- Vacation related – items that remind you of your favorite vacation or somewhere you might want to vacation!
- 12 days of Christmas – bring anything that might fit the theme of 12 days of Christmas gifts from turtle Dove candies to something pear flavored!
- Date night in – things that would work for having a date night in (this works best for couples but you could do a family night in as well).
- Transportation related – anything related to transportation of any kind such as airpods, a travel blanket, a book to read, a car trash can, ice scraper, etc.
- Phrase inspired – pick a fun holiday phrase like “to all a good night,” or “O, Holy Night,” or “Dashing through the snow,” and have people bring gifts inspired by that phrase. Or you could do Christmas carols and have everyone pick a carol inspired gift!
- Drink up – anything drink related such as a Sonic gift card, a mixology gift, a Stanley tumbler, etc.
- Hobbies – have people bring things related to their hobbies or just hobbies in general like craft kits, books, etc.
- Year you were born – have people bring things that were popular the year that they were born or related to the year they were born. For example, I was born in 1985 and The Breakfast Club was popular so I might bring a breakfast gift basket and something from the movie.
- Artist themed – pick a favorite artist (like Taylor Swift or Boy Bands or Imagine Dragons) and tell people to bring something inspired by a particular artist.
- Musical inspired – have friends into musicals? Do a musical theme where people bring gifts inspired by their favorite musicals!
- Sports team – have everyone bring something from their favorite sports team, a particular sports team, or you could just do sports in general
- Something local – have people bring something local to where they live. It could be something like Neiman Marcus chocolates in Kansas City to black and white cookies from New York City.
These are just a few gift exchange theme ideas. There are tons of other themes you could do as well if you want a fun twist on your traditional friend or family gift exchange! You could even just match it to your Christmas party theme!
White Elephant Gift Exchange
A white elephant gift exchange (also known as a yankee swap or dirty Santa gift exchange) is one of the most typical additions to a holiday party, and it’s a great way to get people laughing, especially if you have people bring funny white elephant gift ideas (there are great gift suggestions on that list!) instead of standard ones.
Give everyone a budget and have them bring a wrapped gift within that price limit then play one of these gift exchange games to trade the gifts during your white elephant exchange.
Choose a holiday gift exchange game that includes people opening the wrapped gifts because watching them open funny gifts is one of the best parts of the party game! There’s a reason people put so much effort into finding gag gifts that make the perfect white elephant gifts!
Gift Exchange Game Ideas
If you need gift exchange games to go along with any of the gift exchange themes above, these are some of our more popular games to add to your list!
There are options for everyone whether you want to steal, just pass gifts, or do more of a secret santa idea!
- Dice gift exchange – this dice game is a super popular option for group gift exchanges!
- Deck of cards gift exchange – a fun gift exchange controlled by a playing card!
- Rock paper scissors gift exchange – a classic game of rock paper scissors combined with a gift exchange!
- Left right gift exchange game – grab one of these two poems that tell you how to pass gifts!
- Holiday hustle gift exchange – whether you use white elephant gifts or just regular gifts, this is the fastest and most fun gift exchange we’ve done lately! Only the first person gets the full minute to choose!
- Gift exchange with cards – print out the cards that tell you what to do with your gift!
- Scrooge your neighbor – this one is great if you do an annual gift exchange with the same people!
- Heads or Tails gift exchange – gift exchange controlled by the flip of a coin!
- 12 days of Christmas gift exchange – a gift exchange with a 12 days of Christmas spin!
- Grinch grab Christmas punch game – this one is fun if hosts want to provide all the gifts for the gift exchange! I like to combine this one with holiday trivia!
Coffee Mug Exchange
We did this for this year’s Christmas party, and it was so much fun! Have everyone bring a mug and then do something like this musical gifts game (like musical chairs but with gifts) to swap the mugs.
You can either have people bring empty mugs or filled with gifts, and use these mug exchange ideas to use the mugs and gifts in a creative gift exchange!
This option would work great for an office gift exchange, a girls night, or with a group that you know generally use mugs (so probably not a family/kid one).
Book Gift Exchange
Have everyone bring their favorite book that they read in the past year plus some sort of small gifts that go along with the book. Like for instance, I loved the book Where the Crawdads Sing this year, and I might bring a feather bookmark to go with it.
This is a great way for people to discover new books and would be great for a book club, ladies night, or themed gift exchange with friends!
Homemade Gift Exchange
Have all gift givers bring some sort of homemade gifts and swap those using one of the Christmas gift exchange games I mentioned above. Since these are more thoughtful gifts, this never have I ever gift exchange is a great game for swapping these gifts!
If you’re going to have people bring edible goods, make sure to note any allergies people might have! And make sure to wrap the gifts regardless because the point when you open gifts to see what’s inside is the best!
Creative Wrapping Gift Exchange
There’s a trend on TikTok where you have to try to wrap gifts as something that they’re not, like I saw someone wrap a board game to look like a large giraffe stuffed animal. The idea is to get creative with the wrapping so that people don’t know what’s inside.
This theme could be a unique twist on a typical white elephant game because people may choose their gifts based on how cool the wrapping job is and what they think is inside when in reality it’s some random gift like a pair of gloves. Can you imagine how fun the pile of gifts would be??
I’ve seen this one done a lot, and I love the idea. Every participant brings a unique ornament (you could even give them a theme for the ornaments) to swap gifts, and everyone goes home with a new ornament for their Christmas tree.
This may not be one of the most unique gift exchange ideas, but it is one that most people love to do because who doesn’t love a new ornament for your Christmas tree!
Secret Santa Gift Exchange
This is another traditional gift exchange where the basic idea is that you draw names ahead of time and then everyone chooses the perfect gift for their gift recipient.
When it’s time for the gift exchange, there’s no swapping or stealing, you’re just giving the other person the gift you bought for them. Unless of course you are Michael Scott and really want an iPod. You can use these tell your elf about yourself sheets to make this one easier to put together!
Gift Card Gift Exchange
If you really want to exchange gift cards, this is one of the funniest Christmas gift exchange ideas for doing it. Every year we have Christmas with my husband’s side of the family, they exchange gift cards that are wrapped up or disguised in some way. It makes the actual process of finding the gift card almost like a treasure hunt.
They’ve done everything from just in a box of Pop-Tarts (like in one of the actual Pop-Tarts packages) to in the middle of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Lots of non-food related things too, the food ones just stick out the most! If you want to do a gift card exchange, this is a really fun way to do it.
Sock Gift Exchange
Have everyone bring a pair of socks filled with little trinkets and treats inside. Then trade the socks using some sort of fun gift exchange game I’ve already mentioned. Or you could even do something like have people answer Christmas trivia questions and when they answer one, they get to pick a sock!
It’s a lot of fun to see all of the fun things people can hide inside a pair of socks! Plus, everyone gets a new pair of socks!
Stocking Stuffer Gift Exchange
My friend Amber came up with this idea, and I absolutely love it! Have everyone bring a stocking filled with stocking stuffer type items (news things that are inexpensive and small enough to fit into a stocking). Then trade them in some way.
You can get all of the details for this fun exchange idea here.
If you want to keep things on the less expensive side, you can swap cookies instead of gifts. Have everyone bring over a double or triple batch of their favorite homemade cookies (these peanut butter blossoms are always a hit) or bring some baked and some cookie dough.
Swap the cookies so everyone goes home with some cookies to enjoy during the holiday season. Bonus points if they’re actually Christmas cookies like these peppermint sugar cookies!
Gift Basket Exchange
Have everyone put together a themed gift basket of some sort and party attendees can play a Secret santa game of some sort to choose their basket they go home with. These could be anything from a golf gift basket to an orange gift idea.
The best part about this gift swap is that there’s no wrapping paper required! Well that and you end up with a basket full of new things to take home instead of just one new gift.
Have everyone bring a gift that’s an experience rather than a tangible gift and use those for the exchange. It could be something like a pedicure gift card, a painting lesson, a certificate for TopGolf, or even just an escape room board game.
The only rule is that it has to be something that people get to experience. If you need ideas, these are some of the best experience gifts!
People can wrap up a piece of paper with the item on it, have an actual gift card, or you could have people bring something that represents the gift subtly so people have to guess what they’re going for!
Ugly Sweater Gift Exchange
Have everyone wear an ugly sweater but instead of switching ugly sweaters (because sizing can be an issue), have everyone bring some ridiculous, aka ugly, Christmas gift for gift-giving instead!
You can choose to let people DIY their gifts or have them buy or thrift something, but this one is pretty hilarious!
Gift Exchange FAQs
The best gift exchange ideas are whatever fits your group, your party, and the amount of time you have for the gift exchange! If you have a large group and a short amount of time, try one of the passing gift exchange games (like a left right poem game). If you have a small group and the gift exchange will be the focus of the party, try a more complicated one like Scrooge Your Neighbor.
Make a gift exchange more fun by changing up how you exchange the gifts with a fun gift exchange game or by adding a fun theme to the gifts everyone brings! You can also spice up a gift exchange by adding in some random surprise gifts like cash, lotto tickets, and gift cards for lucky winners at the end!
The first step to organizing a gift exchange is to choose what type of gift exchange you’ll be doing (theme, budget, type of gifts). Once you’ve made that decision, invite everyone who will be coming to your party and ask them to bring a wrapped gift within the parameters you’ve setup. Be specific and make sure everyone understands what type of gift to bring so no one feels like they brought the “wrong gift.”
Choose and prepare your gift exchange game. When you’re ready to play, explain the rules to everyone and play the gift game you’ve decided on! Once you’re done playing, let people trade their gifts if you’d like!