What Is A Dirty Santa Gift Exchange?

what is a dirty santa gift exchange

A dirty Santa gift exchange can be a delightful way to add something new and exciting for the holidays! There is plenty of scheming, planning, and strategy involved right up to the end!

Everyone will get a gift, but which one they end up with depends on the outcome. While the exact origin of the game isn’t known, the game is played all over the world!

It continues to grow in popularity too. It is simple to set up and to establish the rules for those that you invite to take part in it.

Everyone will have fun with it and, for many households, the dirty Santa gift exchange has become an annual event they all look forward to. You may decide to add it to your traditions once you take part in it! 

So, What Is A Dirty Santa Gift Exchange?

what is dirty santa

A dirty Santa gift exchange is similar to other games such as a white elephant exchange or Yankee swap.

However, some differences alter the way it is played. Understanding the differences and rules allow it to move along smoothly and correctly. One of the main differences between this and a white elephant gift is it focuses on new items. The white elephant game usually or traditionally centers around used items.

It differs from Yankee swap as that gift game is the luck of the draw. Each participant brings a gift and a number is assigned to it. Guests will then draw a number and they are given that gift with the matching number on it.

With this “Dirty Santa” version, guests draw a number, but it isn’t associated with a gift. That number establishes the order they go in. The guest with #1 gets to select the gift they want and open it for all to see.

The person with #2 can then decide to “play dirty” and steal that item from #1 if they desire or they can choose a gift to open and show everyone. This process continues until everyone who has a number has had a turn to steal an item or to open a gift.

The person that has #1 gets the last turn, and they have the option to steal a gift or to keep the one they have. If they keep what they have, the game ends and everyone keeps the item they have.

If they steal though, the game continues down the sequence of numbers until someone says they want to keep their item. There has to be an honor system through the game though for it to flow as it should.

Items can only be stolen 3 times and then the person who got it that 3rd time can keep it and they are out of the game.

Who To Invite?

dirty santa game rules

You get to decide who is invited to take part in your dirty Santa gift exchange. You may be hosting a holiday party for friends and family, or maybe you’re in charge of organizing the office Christmas party.

You can set the game up for that event and invite them all to take part in it. If you celebrate the holidays with family, consider this for adults rather than buying gifts for each other. In the end, it will save everyone money.

It will also reduce the stress involved with finding the right gifts for other adults. The focus will be on fun and spending time together. Once you decide who you are going to invite, send out those invitations early so they have time to plan.

Make sure you include information on the rules that will be followed for the event too. This will reduce the risk of any miscommunication with it.

Establish the Rules

It is important to establish the rules on the invitations you send out for the dirty Santa gift exchange. Not everyone you invite will know what it is or how to take part in it. You want them to understand what they are getting involved with. Only guests that bring a gift can take part in the game and go home with a gift.

The first rule to establish on your invitations is the dollar amount for the item. Keep it moderate so that everyone can participate if they so desire without the cost being a problem for them. The cost of the holidays can add up fast!

A dollar amount of $10 or $20 is more than sufficient. Make sure you also let them know they need to spend that amount on a new item, not one that has been previously owned.

Many hosts decide to select a theme too. This means all of the gifts need to fit that particular theme. It is interesting to see how creative your guests can get with those items too.

If you don’t want to go with a theme though then the door is wide open for what they will purchase within that price range.

Have a Great Time!

There can be plenty of competition and friendly banter as the game progresses. No matter who goes home with which gift, it is a good time and you will be happy to see your guests smiling and taking part in it.

You may find it is such a hit you want to add it to your holiday events every year from that point forward!

Even though the game is called “Dirty Santa” because people get to play “dirty” and “steal” gifts from one another, with the right crowd of people, the game of Dirty Santa can be great fun for everyone involved.

As elves, we’re big fans of Santa and we know that the real Santa doesn’t play dirty! But we also know that he loves to see everyone getting together and having fun with family and friends and that’s why the game of Dirty Santa gets a big elf tick of approval from us!

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