exchanging christmas gifts
Start a rotating gift box
. Anna Baldwin, a reader from Arlee, Montana, does this with her three best friends from college She fills a box with locally made, low cost items one for each friend and a personal note, and mails it off. The first friend takes out a gift, puts in three of her own, adds to the note, and ships everything on to the next. The box rotates like that until it has made the rounds of all the friends, ending up back with Anna, complete with personal notes
Introduce a gag gift
. Wrap up your most egregious or inexplicable Christmas present from last year (sad eyed ceramic cat, anyone?) for an unsuspecting family member. It becomes that persons responsibility to pass it along, like a hot potato, the next year.
Have a cobweb party
. This wacky search game was all the rage during the Victorian era. Designate one room for the party, and assign each player a yarn color. Tie one end of a spool of yarn to each gift blue yarn to one players gift, red yarn to another, and so on. Unwind the yarn as you zigzag across the room, trailing it under furniture, looping it around banisters and over curtain rods, anywhere you can. You want to make it as difficult as possible for the gift rec
Do a kids musical chairs gift exchange
. With children you have to be really careful because of their feelings, says Lisa Kothari, owner of the national kids party planning business Peppers and Pollywogs. You have to make sure that everyone gets a gift. Kothari suggests playing a version of musical chairs by having the kids sit in a circle and passing around wrapped gifts while Christmas music plays. The children get to keep whatever theyre holding when the music stops more exciting tha
Do a Yankee Swap White Elephant
. Stealing from other participants gives this gift exchange game an element of unpredictability. Invite everyone to contribute a wrapped gift (a new item if youre following Yankee Swap rules; a used one if youre doing White Elephant). Draw numbers out of a hat to see who gets to pick from the pile first. Player No. 1 chooses and unwraps a gift, then shows it to everyone else. Player No. 2 then either steals that present or picks and unwraps another
Play holiday trivia
. Can you name all nine of Santas reindeer? If so, you get first pick of the presents in the pile. Players use clickers or simply raise their hands to answer, and once they get a present, theyre out of the competition. At the end, the moderator gets to either choose the last gift remaining or steal a gift from somebody else a one time only privilege for all of his or her hard work.
gift with your family
. In lieu of presents, try renting a ski cabin for the weekend after Christmas or going on a beach escape together.
Eliminate the guesswork
. I ask gift recipients to send me a wish list that I buy from. It saves time, effort, and returns, yet still preserves an element of surprise, says Real Simple reader Robin McClellan of Lehigh Acres, Florida.
Buy recurring gifts
. Youll know what to give, and the recipient will look forward to getting, say, an annual shipment of Florida citrus fruits or Vermont cheeses, a series of theater tickets, a museum membership, or even a nice desk calendar.
. Tell them up front youre going to cut back. Dont make it a money issue with your kids, but talk about it in the context of what the holiday really means This is the time to be with family, not for getting new skis, says Sue Fox, author of Etiquette for Dummies ($22, amazon.com). Children are resilient, adds Meg Cox, who wrote The Book of New Family Traditions ($13, amazon.com). If you make the change gradually theyll accept it. Let your extende
Adopt another family for the holidays
. Instead of buying gifts for one another, sponsor a needy family. If you have kids, talk to them about the difference the gesture can make to the other family and make sure theyre okay with giving up presents (you can always get them something little). You can find a needy family through your local Salvation Army branch, which will provide a wish list to shop from.
Put a charitable spin on secret Santa
. Jeanne Benedict, an entertaining expert, suggests adding a philanthropic twist to the game Instead of buying material gifts, make a $20 donation to a charity your recipient would support. For instance, is he or she an animal lover Donate to the ASPCA. It makes a more meaningful gift than another stocking stuffer.
Swap toys with Santa
. Along with cookies and milk, leave (gently used) old toys under the tree on Christmas Eve for Santa to take back to the North Pole. You can donate them to an organization like Toys for Tots or Goodwill.
Ornament craft exchange
. Benedict suggests making handmade ornaments out of 4 inch by 4 inch boxes that are light enough to hang on the tree. Inside the box, fashion a small kit of some kind, like a stamping kit, a jewelry making kit, or a knitting kit something fun that would be easy to pick up as a hobby. Each guest should bring a kit to the party and then exchange it, so that everybody takes home a handcrafted ornament and gets a new project to start on in the New Yea
Pet present exchange
. Incorporate your furry friends into your holiday celebrations. Dress up your pet in holiday garb, like a Santa hat (if hell allow it), then gather with your friends and their pets to share gifts. Obviously you want to stay within the same species, either all cats or all dogs, says Benedict. Theme the presents toward the pets bones and biscuits for dogs, claw scratchers and catnip for cats.
. Give the gift of holiday spirits Have guests bring gift bags full of the items needed to make a certain cocktail (like coffee liqueur, orange cognac, and Irish Cream for a B 52), and then exchange the bags. Or choose to exchange red, white, or sparkling wines.
Germany and Czech Republic
. Czech and German families hang an Advent calendar on the wall four Sundays before Christmas Eve. Each day on the calendar has a little window, behind which tiny toys and pieces of chocolate are hidden. Children open a new window every day until Christmas, delighted by the unveiling of a new treat and the countdown to the big day.
. Dutch children receive their gifts on December 5, St. Nicholas Eve, when families gather to play treasure hunt games and exchange riddles. Presents are anonymously signed Sinterklaas, but a dedication is written on the wrapping paper to offer clues to the real gift givers identity. A rhyming verse teases the recipient (in good humor, of course) or offers a hint at whats inside. Other small, unwrapped gifts are hidden in odd places, like inside a
Host a wrapping party
. Those presents arent going to wrap themselves, unfortunately, so why not have fun while getting the job done? Divvy up responsibility for supplies ribbon, paper, decorative bags, bows, tags, scissors, and tape to your guests so no one is shelling out for everything. Guests bring their own unwrapped presents. Set out the supplies, cue the festive music, and have everyone work together to get the job done.
Cookie swap packing party
. Think of this as a holiday cookie exchange plus. Besides cookies to swap at the party, guests bring extras, along with metal tins, takeout containers, plastic boxes, and packing materials. Together, you carefully box up the extra cookies to ship to out of town family and friends.
Cake Walk Exchange
. Have a cake walk type gift exchange. Place numbered paper stars or ornaments randomly around the floor. When a certain bell is rung or music played, everyone stands on a number. Draw a number and the person standing on the number drawn gets to choose a gift first. Continue until all gifts are chosen. Options attach a number to each gift and the number the guest is standing on gets that numbered gift. Numbers corresponding to gifts could be given
Holiday Trivia Exchange
. Have everyone bring a wrapped gift. Place the answers to holiday questions on the gifts. Read the questions and the person giving the right answer gets the package with the answer on it.
Holiday Laughter Exchange
. Place answers to Christmas jokes (do a search and you will be able to find a lot of cute holiday jokes online) on gifts. Give everyone a joke and they get the gift that has their answer on it. Make sure to go in a circle and read the jokes as a group.
Christmas Card Match
. Cut Christmas cards in half. Attach one half to the gifts. Give each person one of the Christmas card pieces and the gift they get is the one that matches the half of their card.Pass the Parcel Exchange Have everyone sit in a circle. You will need a pair of dice, a hat (Santa hat or winter hat), gloves and scarf and wrapped gifts.Have each person in the circle take turns rolling the dice, passing to the next person after their turn. If they get
Treasure Hunt Exchange
. A fun way to distribute gifts is to have a treasure hunt. This works well if it is for a family party. Clues could be given to each person as to where their gift is hidden or have an actual hunt that leads from place to place.
Holiday Cheer Exchange
. Have everyone sit in a circle and grab a gift (doesn't have to be one they brought). Have someone be the commentator. Have questions that require people to exchange gifts. For example, have everyone who is wearing red exchange gifts. Next have everyone who has their Christmas tree up exchange gifts. Have some very easy items and some harder and make sure everyone will have a chance to exchange.
Left Right Gift Exchange
. Create a story (or use a Christmas story such as Twas the Night Before Christmas and add the left and right words) using the words left and right. Have someone read the story and when the word right is said everyone passes the gift to the right. Do the same with the word left.
Rewards on a Ribbon Exchange
. For this exchange you will need ribbon or yarn. Use one piece of ribbon per gift. Wind ribbon through the house and intertwined with the other ribbons making a fun web like maze. Attach the end of a ribbon to each gift. Give the other end of the ribbon to each person and they get to unwind the ribbon to find their gift. Hide gifts if desired.
. Play pass the presents as you would musical chairs. Play the music and when it stops that is the gift the person gets to open. This is more fun if you pass one or two gifts at a time.
Christmas Carols Exchange
. Write the first lines of Christmas carols and place in a bag. Place the remaining part of the song on each gift as guests arrive. When it is time to exchange, each guest pulls out a line of the carol and must match it up to the gift that has the rest of the song. They must sing the song before opening the gift.