What Is A Pollyanna Gift Exchange?

what is a pollyanna gift exchange

Christmas is a time of happiness, warmth, kindness and it’s also a great time of year to remember that we all need to extend love and kindness towards one another. Of course, we should do this all year round, but the Christmas holiday season is a good time to really start thinking of our friends and family.

One way to do this is to play Elf By Stealth – stealthily spreading a message of love and happiness to others around you. Another way to spread love and joy at Christmas time is to participate in a Pollyanna Gift Exchange.

So, What Is A Pollyanna Gift Exchange?

pollyanna gift exchange

Those of you familiar with Yankee Swap and Dirty Santa will recognise a Pollyanna Gift Exchange as pretty much the same thing. It’s a great way to have fun and exchange random gifts with a large group of people, so it’s perfect for office parties and large family gatherings.

The basic crux of the idea is, everyone brings a gift and then these gifts are distributed randomly amongst the guests by following the predetermined rules.

Pollyanna Gift Exchange Rules

One Gift Per Guest

pollyanna gift

Each guest needs to be instructed to buy or find a present/gift suitable for the party. Only one gift is to be donated per guest and they must bring their chosen gift wrapped so as to disguise its contents – you don’t want anyone to be able to tell what the present is before it is unwrapped.

Have fun with the wrapping – disguise a small gift in a large box or use extra wrapping paper to disguise the shape of the gift so that no one can guess what it is. Part of the fun of a Pollyanna Gift Swap is trying to guess which package has a better gift.


pollyanna gift budget

Set a budget for your guests to follow when buying their gift so that all of the gifts are of relatively the same monetary value – usually $20 or $30 is a good budget to use, or you could try and challenge your guests by setting the budget very low like $5 or $10 and see what sort of gifts they come up with.


pollyanna gift exchange theme

Setting a theme is not essential but it can add some fun to the game and give your guests some ideas and direction in choosing their gift to bring. The theme could be alcohol or food or you could choose a color theme – all gifts must be red, or even an alphabetic theme – gifts must start with the letter “C”.

Get as creative as you like with a theme for your Pollyanna Gift Exchange – it’s fun to see how creative your guests can get with their gift choices!

Opening Order

how to do a pollyanna gift exchange

The order in which the guests will be allowed to open and swap gifts must be determined. Make sure everyone attending understands how this is going to happen before you begin with the fun. Choosing who gets to choose and open a gift first is usually done by drawing a name or number out of a hat or bowl.

Either put everybody’s name in a hat and pull the names out one by one to determine the order, or, put numbered pieces of paper into a hat, give everyone the chance to pull a number out of the hat, then begin with the person who drew number 1, then proceed to number 2 etc.

Open Or Swap

pollyanna gift swap

After the order has been determined, the guests must start opening and swapping gifts in the assigned order. Number 1 or the first named guest chooses a gift from the pile of gifts collected. He or she unwraps the gift for the whole party to see what it is.

Then the second guest has the choice to either take this unwrapped gift from the first guest or open another unopened one from the pile remaining.

This process continues until all of the gifts have been opened. Sometimes people allow further swapping of gifts once all of the gifts are opened – this will be up to you and your party guests to decide before the game begins.

No Swapbacks

One important rule in a Pollyanna gift exchange is, if someone has taken (swapped) your gift, you cannot immediately swap them and take it back.

You can swap from anyone else or open another unopened gift, but swapping the same item from someone who just took it from you is not allowed, otherwise you could sit there all day watching two people “swapping” the same gift back and forth!

What Is A Pollyanna Gift?

A Pollyanna gift is any gift that is purchased for a Pollyanna gift exchange party. It should be purchased within the allocated budget of the party and should follow any theme that has been chosen for the event.

So, if the theme is gifts beginning with “P” and the budget is $15, your pollyanna gift could be a pizza cutter, a power strip or a pen holder. You really are limited only by your imagination, the theme (if there is one) and the budget.

While a gift for a white elephant gift exchange is traditionally something the recipient doesn’t want or need, a pollyanna gift is usually something useful that anybody at the gift exchange could use or want.

So something unisex, useful or able to be consumed is usually popular. But, you can also decide to have a bit of fun with your pollyanna gift giving and choose fun or gag gifts to make everybody laugh.

what is a pollyanna gift

So, there you have it, similar to white elephant, yankee swap and dirty santa, a Pollyanna gift exchange is just another fun way to exchange gifts with a large group of people. Like any other gift exchange, the more the merrier! The more people you have the more variety you’ll find in the gifts which always adds to the fun.

While “Dirty Santa” sounds a bit nasty with people playing “dirty” and “stealing” gifts from one another, Pollyanna likes to keep things nice and bright and friendly so the terminology is more friendly, like “gift exchange” and “swapping”.

If you think your friends and family might be more receptive to this sort of theme, try calling your next gift exchange a “Pollyanna Gift Exchange”. Whatever you decide to call it, we hope you have fun and enjoy the spirit of the Christmas giving season with a fun gift exchange party.

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