This Christmas gift game is unlike any you’ve ever played before. This Santa’s Grab Bag game combines the classic games of hot potato, pass the parcel, and trivia in one game you’ll want to play year after year! It’s the perfect option for a Christmas party where you want games with prizes but don’t want to do a gift exchange!
I’ve created hundreds of Christmas games over the years and coming up with different games every year gets a little challenging. But people apparently get bored of playing Christmas bingo or Christmas Jeopardy every year.
One of the questions that I get asked a lot is if I have any fun Christmas party games that include giving gifts but not a gift exchange. Something kind of like the saran wrap game but actual wrapped gifts.
So this year I thought it’d be fun to create a gift game where people can win gifts but not just be handed them.
I took the idea of hot potato, combined with the 5 second rule game, and added a festive twist that keeps everyone on their toes. I call it Santa’s Grab bag game.
This games combines a little competitiveness, a little bit of knowledge (but not hard knowledge), and a little bit of luck. It’s perfect for teens and adults and hilarious for everyone to watch!
What you Need to Play
You only need a few things to get this game started, here is everything you will need.
- Gifts – it’s up to you if you want everyone to bring their own or you want to provide them. I recommend gifts that actually wrapped in wrapping paper rather than in bags or boxes that may get opened while the bag is passed.
- Bag – this cute Santa bag worked perfectly, but any large bag will do. It needs to be able to fit the gifts.
- Printer – you’ll want to print out the prompts to tape onto the gifts.
- Music and speaker – I found that a phone speaker was too quiet, so I recommend using a speaker for this game. I got my dad one of these for his 50th birthday, and it still works great!
You can play that either everyone can only get one present in the game or they can get multiple gifts. If you are going to play multiples, then I recommend getting enough presents for everyone to get at least one plus at least a few extras. We typically do smaller $5-$10 type gifts for this game!
You’ll love how easy this game is to set up, leaving you with plenty of extra time to make delicious treats like this Christmas bark.
- Wrap all those presents. In this game, you can win more than one present, so I suggest getting at least a handful of extras. It’s also important you wrap each one – you won’t want them falling out of their bags inside Santa’s sack.
- Print and cut out the prompts. You can get the prompts at the bottom of this post or you can make up your own. The prompts are just categories, and I borrowed a handful of mine from my The First Noel Christmas game (don’t tel!).
- Tape one prompt onto each present so that that can be easily seen. I like to tape both the top and the bottom of the prompt onto the present so it doesn’t accidentally get torn off during the bag passing.
- Place all the presents into Santa’s bag.
If the host doesn’t want to provide all the gifts have each person bring one gift that is wrapped. The host can choose to bring the extra gifts or decide to have each player only win one gift. If everyone else is bringing gifts, encourage them to bring smallish wrapped gifts so all of the gifts fit in the bag!
- Choose one person to be in charge of the music. The music needs to be stopped randomly throughout the game.
- Have everyone in the group sit in a circle and give one person in the circle the bag.
Play without a music person!
If you want everyone to play, you can find playlists like this one that will do the trick.
Or you can just have one person play the music for say three songs and then switch out with someone else. Keep doing that rotating people out clockwise so everyone gets the chance to play. I wouldn’t do one song because it’l just get too time consuming but if you only do it so often, it works great.
How To Play Santa’s Grab Bag
- The person will start the music and while the music plays people must pass the bag clockwise around the circle, just like in hot potato or musical gifts. (Make sure the person playing the music isn’t facing the circle to keep it fair).
- After playing a short clip of music, the person in charge of the music should stop it.
- When the music stops, the person holding the bag will pull one present out without looking and read the prompt taped onto the present out loud.
- The player then has five seconds to name THREE items in the category prompt. Once they have finished reading the prompt, the group can begin quietly counting to five (or loudly if your group likes real pressure and obnoxious games) to give them an actual timer and a little pressure. For example, if the prompt was Christmas colors, they would need to name three Christmas colors before the group finished counting to five.
- If the player correctly responds to the prompt in the allotted time they get to open and keep their present and remain in the game. If they cannot, the present goes back into the bag still wrapped, with the chance to be won by another player.
- The person starts the music again and the bag moves around the circle again until the music stops.
How does the game end?
Keep playing this same way with the bag going around the circle and people winning (or not winning) gifts until all of the presents inside the bag are gone and handed out to people!
We like to play this game where people can win multiple gifts because it makes it more of a competitive game than just a handing out gifts type of game. However, I understand that’s not for everyone. If you want it to be where everyone wins a gift, you can have people leave the circle once they’ve won a gift.
Or you can still play the way the game is written with multiple winners and just have consolation prizes (like $5 gift cards or movie tickets or movie theater candy boxes) set aside for anyone who doesn’t win a gift at all. That way they still win something even though they didn’t luck into having the bag land on them during the game!
Santa’s Grab Bag Category Ideas
I’ve included a printable set of category cards at the end of this post but if you just want some ideas to get started and write your own, here are a sample of the ones I used that are included in the printable!
- Christmas movies
- Christmas characters
- Christmas spices
- Characters in the Nutcracker
- Things at the North Pole
- Gifts in the 12 Days of Christmas
- Christmas foods
- Christmas songs
- Things you can make with snow
- Christmas party themes
- Things that go on a Christmas tree
- People you shop for on Christmas
- Christmas colors
The gifts you add to your grab bag will depend on your audience. I suggest getting either gender-neutral presents or things that are fairly universal since it’s a randomized gift game.
We decided to do stocking stuffer type of gifts and it worked great! Here are some of the things we used that people enjoyed getting.
- Gift cards – it’s hard to go wrong with a gift card.
- Scrub Daddy – every grown adult secretly wants these.
- Poo-Pourri – another household favorite and one of the best white elephant gifts!
- Electric lighter – these are not only cool but really useful.
- Beef jerky
- Cord organizers – these Wrap-It organizers are great!
- Bath bombs – these superhero ones are great for kids!
There is no limit on how many people can play this game. If you have a large group, keep the music clips short so you can get through the game quicker.
If you have a large group with various age ranges, consider playing this pass the present game with the kids while the adults play this gift game.
Having someone start and stop the music makes the game go smoothly. However, if you want everyone to play you can find hot potato or musical chair playlists on the internet that will work as well. Just make sure to test it before, you wouldn’t want a full minute of passing or the game may never end.
You can play with as many gifts as you want. If you want to have everyone just win one gift, have them leave the circle when they open a gift.
Any age technically can play this game, but I recommend this game for older kids, teens, and adults simply because it’ll be hard for younger kids to name things in the categories and it’s challenging to find gifts that young kids and adults both would want to get!
Download the Grab Bag Categories
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The downloadable PDF will include:
- Two pages of categories to use for the game
- Instructions and use policy