My Family's Alternative To The Secret Santa Gift Exchange

December 16, 2013

I’m one of six kids. When the holidays come around it can mean a lot of gift giving for my family. If you add spouses, kids and parents to the mix, it’s out of control.

Naturally, most (all) of us don’t care to by gifts for 15+ family members each year. For years, my mother organized a secret santa gift exchange. It reduces the gift giving to just one (plus parents). In short, you’d pick a name out of a hat sometime around Thanksgiving and that was your person for the year. It’s a great solution and allows a person to buy a more expensive and presumably more desirable gift.

Secret santa: less and less of a secret

It worked great for years; however, as time went on there was a general lack of it been a secret. I was a guilty party and would sometimes ask the person directly:

“Hey, I’m your secret santa, what do you want?”

And this would happen to me, too. Over time, it just became more of a chore than surprise for those involved. Furthermore, it was something in which only the six kids and spouses participated. If there was another visitor during gift opening session, they would not be involved. Also, sometimes people would not make it to my mother’s house in Highland, California, yet they would still participate in the exchange. It’s not as meaningful when you just mail a gift in the mail and don’t get to see them open it.

I wanted to bring the fun back

I’m a big fan of the white elephant gift exchange. I love they dynamic of stealing gifts and the excitement of openting something which you have no clue what’s inside. However, I don’t like the idea of giving gifts that people likely will not want. I suggested a white elephant like game, only a few different rules.

Gold Elephant Gift Exchange Rules

I suppose we can call it a gold elephant gift exchange, because many of the rules are very similar to the white elephant gift exchange. The biggest difference is you want to bring a gift that others will actually want.

  1. Set a wide price range. ($5-$100)
  2. Set a general theme. (E.g. Makes you health, Useful in the kitchen)
  3. Anyone attending the event can participate.
  4. Buy a gift you think people would actually want. (No cash or gift cards)
  5. Wrap the gifts, don’t tell others what you bought.
  6. Put all the gifts in a pile
  7. Draw numbers to see who picks first.
  8. The first person selects a gift to open, that is their gift.
  9. The next person has a choice: steel the gift or open a new one.
  10. A gift can only be stolen 3 times. After that it’s “safe”.
  11. Yes, you can steal your own gift.
  12. No, you should not open your own gift.
  13. Feel free to trade after the event.
  14. Everyone votes on who brought the best gift.
  15. The winner get to select the theme for next years exchange.

We’re going on our third year and so far it’s been going well. I think the one area we could improve is setting a shorter deadline for selecting next years theme. Giving the person 48 hours is enough. After all, the theme does not matter so much, just gives other some guidance and makes it easier when the time comes to judge who brought the best gift.

Happy holidays. I wish all a wonderful 2013.



More thoughts

comments powered by Disqus