Different Ways to Play Dirty Santa

different ways to play dirty santa

Christmastime is fast approaching, and one of the most popular games that folk play in the run up to Christmas is Dirty Santa.

It’s a great way to exchange gifts for office parties or large families or groups of friends. Let’s have a look at the game and the different ways there are to play Dirty Santa.

What is Dirty Santa?

what is dirty santa

Dirty Santa is a simple gift-giving game usually played by families or friendship groups as a way of livening up the giving of presents. The best way to organize and play the game is to hold a Dirty Santa evening or party.

Invite guests – not too many – and ask each of them to bring a wrapped gift or several gifts. The ideal minimum number of guests is 6, with a maximum of about 12 or 14. Otherwise the game becomes too long and unwieldy. The guests then sit around in a circle with the gifts in a pile in the middle.

Taking it in turns, each guest chooses a gift from the pile. The first gift chosen is unwrapped and revealed. The next person to choose can either take another gift from the pile, or steal the gift that has already been opened.

If the opened gift is stolen, then the person who chose it gets to choose another. The next choice skips to the third person in line, and so on until the last gift has been chosen.

Dirty Santa actually encourages guests to steal desirable gifts. There is scope for scheming by guests to obtain the best gifts and avoid having to take home the worst ones.

One basic rule in this variation of the game is that no-one can steal back the gift they have just had stolen from them until their turn comes around again. It is essential to have more gifts than guests, so that each one has several turns at choosing a gift.

For even more information about the game of Dirty Santa, click here.

Dirty Santa Gifts

ways to play dirty santa

The quality of the gifts provided is a major part of the fun to be had at a Dirty Santa party. Dirty Santa is all about ending up with the best gifts and not the useless ones.

Make sure that some gifts are really great, desirable ones, and others are completely useless. Depending on the type of guests invited, some of the gifts can be humorous while others will be serious. Do not put labels of any kind on the gifts.

Wrapping the gifts can lead to more fun. Make the wrappings as bizarre and eccentric as possible. Wrap tiny gifts in big, flamboyant boxes. Wrap gifts so they look quite unlike their usual shape. Put boring wrapping on exciting gifts.

So, What Are The Different Ways To Play Dirty Santa?

different ways to play dirty santa game

It seems that everyone has their own way to play dirty Santa so it’s important to decide which way you’ll be playing before you start so that all of the guests are on the same page and know what to expect.

Wrapping Gifts For Dirty Santa

One ploy can be to wrap all the gifts exactly the same, maybe in brown paper and tied with string. This way there is no chance of the guests guessing what each gift is, and adds an element of mystery to the game.

Obviously in this version of the game, the host would be responsible for all of the gifts and would not have asked guests to bring along a gift to exchange.

Guessing Game Dirty Santa

Introduce an extra level to the game by asking each guest to identify which of the other guests brought along a particular gift. This is a good variation where the guests all know each other quite well.

Dirty Santa Gifts From One Store

Sometimes good fun can be had if the gifts are all purchased from the same store – challenge your guests to buy their gift for the game from one particular store.

This can add a bit of anxiety to the game, especially when the store sells some particularly useless items. Flea markets are good places to shop for items that seem to have no obvious purpose.

Dirty Santa With A Theme

Another way to mix things up a little in the game of Dirty Santa is to include a theme for the gifts.

Challenge your guests to bring a gift that starts with “T”, or a gift that is yellow, or that can be consumed…you can be as creative as you like with Dirty Santa Themes and sometimes it helps to give your guests some help and direction in choosing a gift to bring. Don’t forget to give them a price limit too.

Dirty Santa Dice Game

Choosing the order in which guests choose gifts can be done in a number of ways. There are a few different ways you can play Dirty Santa using dice. 

Determine a number that needs to be rolled in order to choose a gift, for example, you must roll a 6 or, if using two dice, you must roll doubles.

Keep passing the dice to the left around the circle of guests, each person rolling the dice until they roll the magic number/s and get to choose a gift. You could also make it that if, for instance a 2 is rolled, that person gets to “steal” a gift from another player.

Pre-determine the way you’ll use dice if you choose to do it this way – there are plenty of ideas on Pinterest to help you out.

Pulling Names Out Of A Hat For Dirty Santa

In this variation of the game everybody participating has their name written on a slip of paper and put into a hat or bowl or container of some sort. The host begins by pulling out the name of the person to start.

This person gets to choose a gift from the pile of collected gifts and unwrap their gift for everyone to see. This same person then gets to pull the next name out of the hat. The person whose name has just been pulled out now gets to decide whether they would like to choose a gift from the pile of gifts or steal the gift that the first person has already unwrapped.

If they steal the gift then person number 1 gets to choose another gift from the pile and unwrap it and then another name is pulled out of the hat.

Person number 3 can then choose to steal either of the gifts that have already been revealed, or choose a new gift from the unwrapped pile. Play continues until all of the gifts have been selected and unwrapped.

Allocating Numbers For Dirty Santa

This is another method for choosing the order in which people get to select gifts. Simply write numbers onto small slips of paper, as many as the number of people participating – so, if there are 10 people playing, write the numbers 1 to 10 on the papers.

Put the numbers into a hat/bowl/container and then pass it around the guests having each guest draw a number out. Begin with the person who drew number 1 and continue through the numbers.

Dirty Santa With Prizes

Encourage people to bring really good gifts for your Dirty Santa gift exchange by offering a prize for the person who brings the most fought over gift.

Keep track of how many times each gift is stolen to decide which was the most popular gift of the event. You could even offer a prize for the funniest/worst gift too!

Dirty Santa Quiz Or Trivia Game

Dirty Santa does lend itself really well to a mix of a quiz night and Dirty Santa. The host can ask general knowledge questions or maybe even Christmas themed quiz questions, to determine who gets the next pick of a gift.

Make the questions fun to add some extra laughter to the evening.

Dirty Santa For Kids

When children are taking part in the game, it is a nice idea to put all the gifts into a plastic paddling pool in the centre and provide each guest with a stick that has a hook on the end.

Make sure each gift has a loop on it, and then guests have to hook a gift before opening it. This is reminiscent of the funfair game of hooking a plastic duck, but works well with younger children. (This game also works well at a children’s party).

Dirty Santa With A Forfeit

One other variation that works well when only adults are participating is to introduce some gift packages that contain a forfeit. The forfeits might include singing the national anthem, folding a table napkin properly or eating a raw onion. 

Match the forfeits to the guests, and you can easily guarantee a whole evening of fun and get Christmas off to a magnificent Dirty Santa start!

Dirty Santa is also a great excuse to invite friends round and have a party with food and drink. And now you’re aware of lots of different, fun ways to play dirty Santa!

A party with a quiz and Dirty Santa! What could be better at Christmas? The only thing we can think of would be delivering an elf by stealth! Or maybe telling some elf jokes!

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