Holiday Gifting Games

Oh, the joys of the festive season. Ideally speaking, there are gifts galore for everyone involved, and the joy of giving is just as great as the joy of receiving. So, what’s all this chatter about a white elephant, anyway?

Well, Secret Santa is a great gift-giving game, played both at the office and at home. It’s great because it saves you from buying gifts for everyone – everyone wins. People anonymously select the name of someone they need to buy a gift for. There is often a theme to make things interesting, and almost always a budget – for South Africans, it is typically R100.

Secret Santa has its flaws though. Some people don’t exactly stick to the budget, and people either plan for it, or they don’t. So basically, if you’re in the office, you can expect the last-minute chocolate from the petrol station, or the wish listed and discounted mug that has a butterfly on it, because you mentioned you liked them once. In terms of the family edition, you’re probably going to end up with a bar of soap on a string, or a purely comedic gift like a blow-up crown.

To avoid this disappointment, people have changed the game, to spice up the holiday season. The game is known as Dirty Santa, Yankee Santa, or White Elephant (don’t ask). It involves the luck of the draw and smart decision-making, leaving everybody a winner. Here’s how it works:

  • Everybody is told to bring an anonymous, wrapped gift, brought for no one in particular.

Side note: There can still be themes and budgets introduced, as this version of the game usually involves novelty gifts.

  • The gifts all go into a pool of gifts, under the Christmas tree (or anywhere, really). Then there is a draw. Write numbers on pieces of paper, fold them and put them into a bag or container (that 2-litre ice-cream tub your mom has been saving will do). Everyone picks a number. In this case, it doesn’t pay to be first.
  • Now the fun begins. The numbers represent the order in which the game will be played. Player number 1 must select any gift – and sit tight.
  • Now, player number 2 is up. This person chooses a present, and then decides if they want to keep it, or steal number 1’s gift. If they steal the gift, the two players need to swop gifts.
  • Then number 3 follows, and so the game continues. With each round, the choice of gifts become bigger and bigger, hopefully resulting in you getting exactly what you want!

For some other gift giving game ideas, consider the following:

  • Hot Potato

Much like the game Hot Potato, everyone tosses gifts around and when the game stops, you keep the gift that’s in your hands.

  • Musical Chairs

Bring out your inner child with this one. Everyone leaves a gift on the chair, and once the music stops, the chair you’re at will hold the gift you keep.

  • Spin the Candy Cane

Sit around a candy cane, and rather than muster-up teenage experimentation, let the person the cane points to decide which gift they’d like to open (and keep).


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