20 Funny Gift Exchange Games To Play That Aren’t Just Secret Santa

It’s about to get extremely festive.

by Brittany Bennett and Mia Mercado
Originally Published: 
Holiday gift exchange games to play with your coworkers at the office or on Zoom.
FluxFactory/E+/Getty Images

This season is all about giving. So why not give — and get — a few laughs while you're at it? If you're sick of the standard Secret Santa swap and want to switch it up a bit this year, there are plenty of funny gift exchange games to play with your friends in-person or even virtually. Plus, they'll be a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of the year.

Whether you always have a gift exchange with your group chat or you’re doing it for the first time with some new coworkers, it’s important to find the balance of a lighthearted gift exchange that still celebrates the values of the season. It doesn't need to be super serious but still needs some structure so everyone knows how to play along. These gift exchange ideas are even great for an extended family holiday party to keep everyone (even your great-grandpa and fun, single Aunt) entertained. Read on to see what gift exchange games you can play this year and add to your annual traditions, some are more well-known than others so be sure everyone gets a briefing of the rules before gameplay starts to keep everything fair and merry.

1. White Elephant

If you aren't familiar with how to play White Elephant, the basic rundown is this: everyone comes prepared with a wrapped gift and puts into it the designated gift pile. Everybody gets a number. That's the order in which you'll pick your gifts. When the first person picks, the person who comes after can either steal that gift or pick from the pile. This sentiment continues until all the gifts have been picked. Want to organize a virtual gift exchange? Let White Elephant Online take care of all the logistics for you.

2. Hot Gift Potato

If you've got a small team, you could throw it back to the good old days with a game of hot potato. Start by tossing a gift around the room to the beat — or beep — of a timer. When the timer stops, the person who is holding onto the gift gets to keep it. Continue playing until each participant has a gift in hand! You'll be surprised how the anxiety of the dwindling timer brings concentration and laughs. And hey, when you're out, at least you're out with a gift.

3. Musical Chairs

Like Hot Potato, musical chairs is the low-stakes tension we need this year. Start playing as per usual: everyone circles a set of chairs as the music plays. For the first round, after the music stops and everyone tries to grab a seat, the person who's left standing gets to pick a present. Then, the person who gets out in each subsequent round gets the option of picking a gift from the pile or stealing someone else's gift. The last person left has the benefit of seeing what everyone else has already picked, giving them the option to steal from anyone or choose the final unwrapped present.

4. Holiday Dice Exchange

Have a small-ish group of people? This could be the perfect game. All you need is a pair of dice and a rule sheet printout. Have everyone come prepared with a gift, obviously. From there, roll the dice one at a time. The number you land on comes with instructions that dictate the fate of your present, like unwrapping your gift or everyone passing your present to the left.

5. Numbers Fact Game

How well do you know your group? This is a great way to find out — or learn a little fun fact about someone else. Have your most enthusiastic group member host. When everyone brings a gift in, it'll be marked with a number and you'll be given a paper with that same number on it. Write down a fun fact about yourself. The fact paper will go into a hat and the host will read off the facts. Whoever guesses who the coordinating fact is about first gets the gift associated with the number!

6. Trivia Gift Exchange

Similar to the numbers game, play a round of trivia with your office. It can even be tailored to your office, be holiday-specific trivia, or just general random facts. When you answer correctly, you get a gift. Simple, informative, and hilarious.

7. Swapping Game

You'll need a set of rule cards to deal out, one to each person. The cards will have instructions like "give your gift to someone wearing a hat" or "everyone must swap their gift with another person." Presents will be taken from you, as warned by, and given to you in a whirlwind, frenzied-meets-festive fashion.

8. “Never Have I Ever” Game

Tailor this classic game to the holidays with prompts like, "never have I ever had eggnog." When you're out, you get to pick a gift and the last shreds of your dignity.

9. Bingo

Bust out those bingo markers and start up the virtual bingo number caller. To play, the first winner gets to pick from the fresh pile of presents, the second winner can easily steal that gift or pick another gift. Continue the cycle until everyone has a gift that'll make them yell "BINGO!"

10. Coffee Mugs

Take the guesswork out of gift-giving with a mug exchange. Have everyone bring in a mug to give away — bonus points for creativity. Then, mark each wrapped mug with a number, as inspired by, and have each person participating in your office pick a number from a hat. Pick up your mug and relish in the festive chuckles.

11. Dollar Store Exchange

Set your budget to just one dollar or two. You and your coworkers are only allowed to exchange gifts within these perimeters. The gifts, no matter how small, will bring big-time laughs.

12. Mystery Gift

Remember when you were young and at Halloween parties and had to blindly stick your hand into a bowl of something and guess what it was? Usually, a bowl of spaghetti was worms, you know? Take the essence of the mystery game and translate it to holiday gift exchanges. You'll at least crack a smile as you watch your loved ones blindly try to figure out what it is they're taking home.

13. Gift Card Exchange

Make sending gifts as easy as possible by limiting your gift exchange to gift cards only. To make it even less of a hassle, only exchange virtual gift cards so people can easily email the gift to their recipient.

14. Scrooge Your Neighbor

For a Scrooge Your Neighbor gift exchange, everyone will get a preassigned character card. (e.g. Scrooge lets you block someone from stealing your gift, The Ghost of Christmas Future lets you peek at a gift before selecting it.) Go around the circle, each person selecting a gift but remember: you can also use your character card. Proceed to Scrooge your coworkers over with no remorse.

15. Heads/Tails

All you need for this exchange is a coin and someone who's good at flipping coins. If you get heads, you get to steal someone else's gift. If you get tails, you get to pick from the unwrapped pile.

16. Wiki Race

If you've got a small group of people playing over Zoom, a Wiki race is a fun way to decide who gets to pick a present and when. Pick a random Wikipedia page to start on. Then, the first person to get to the Wikipedia page for Santa (or Christmas or egg nog, really anything festive) gets to pick a present. The catch? You're only allowed to click on hyperlinks within the Wikipedia page and the back button isn't allowed.

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17. Guess The Gifter

Take a traditional gift exchange and add some ~mystery~ by having everyone anonymously receive a gift from another participant. Then, take turns unwrapping your present over Zoom, trying to guess who gave who what.

18. Gift Hunt

Turn your space into a treasure trove. This game can easily be combined with Secret Santa. Except, you'll have to bring a set of clues along with your gift. Hide your recipient's gift somewhere in the house. Your map of clues will draw them closer to the gold.

19. Majority/Minority

To play, one person gives two contrasting options. It can be any two options: vanilla or chocolate, day or night, winter or summer, Santa or Scrooge, etc. Then, everyone goes around and says which one they pick, no explanations are necessary. When it gets back to the original person, they say their choice. If the majority of people picked the same thing as the original person, that person gets to steal a gift. If they're in the minority, they pick from the pile. Honesty is key here.

20. Mute/Unmute

Turn the dreaded Zoom mic into a game by having one person in charge of the Mute/Unmute All function. Make sure everyone is viewing in Active Speaker mode which highlights whoever is talking. Have the host ask the group a question then unmute everyone. Whoever's video is highlighted in speaker mode gets to unwrap their gift.

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