A white elephant gift exchange earns its deserved reputation as a perennial Christmas game favorite. Whether it's a gathering of friends, family, or coworkers, white elephant Christmas games allow partygoers to relax and get to know each other -- and enjoy some good-natured laughter, too. If you haven't played it before, read on for our easy game rules. If you have played it before, try one of our variations for an inspired addition to your holiday gatherings.
White Elephant Game Rules
Each person must bring one wrapped present to the Christmas party. Once everyone is assembled, have each person draw a number. The person with number "one" chooses a present to unwrap. The person with number "two" has a choice: They may choose a new, wrapped present, or they may take the unwrapped present from the first person. If they take the present from the first person, that person chooses another present to unwrap. The person with the number "three" may choose any previously unwrapped present or a new, wrapped one. The game continues until all presents have been unwrapped and everyone has a gift.
How many people do you need?
At least four people should play, but White Elephant works best with a minimum of six people. The more people that play, the longer the game will take -- so if you're hosting a party of 20 or more people, this game might not be the best to play.
Does the game have any limits?
White elephant can go on and on, so it's best to institute some sort of limits -- a present can only be "stolen" three times, for example, or a person can only have something stolen from them a maximum of three times. You also can limit how many times people can steal from one another during one turn. Some variations also allow the person who drew number "one" to be the final person to choose a present after everyone else is finished. The rules and limits are up to you and party attendees -- just make sure to define them all before the game begins.
How does someone win?
White elephant is a game where everyone wins because each person ends up with a present -- and the party itself is a gift of fun.
Try these fun white elephant game variations:
- Put a specific dollar limit on gifts -- and make it tricky. For example, each guest has to spend $10.51 exactly.
- Have each person find something from their house or closet to give -- no spending any money at all.
- Give every party attendee the same off-beat place that they need to buy gifts, such as a convenience or thrift store.
- Have each person bring a gift card in the same amount -- but the store can be of their choosing.
- Set a theme for gifts, such as a book or beauty product.
- Swap gifts without opening them, which eliminates the trading aspect but can cut down on time it takes to complete the game.
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