Deanna and Justin In The Morning

stack of gift boxes white background

Its that time of year where we’ll be exchanging with family and playing games at holiday get togethers. Therefore, we decided to bring you the White Elephant Dos and Do Nots.

The popular game seems to have rules that vary by household. So we’re here to clear some of that up.

According to WhiteElephantRules.Com ,the game is also known as Yankee Swap, Dirty Santa.

Whatever you call it, you most likely play it the same way for the most part.

Here are the basic rules:

1. Each player brings one wrapped gift to contribute to a common pool

The gift exchange organizer should provide information on what type of gift people should bring.

2. Players draw numbers to determine what order they will go in

Alternatively, someone can draw names/numbers from a hat, or the order can be set by the organizer prior to the event.

3. Players sit in a circle or line where they can see the gift pile

To make things easier, everyone should sit in the order in which they will take their turns.

4. The first player selects a gift from the pool and opens it

Make sure everyone can see the gift!

Now, this is where things get tricky.

When it’s your turn, you can either steal a gift that has already been opened or pick a new unwrapped gift from the pot.

There have been debates over how many times a gift can be stolen.

The game and any of it’s versions can be played many ways. However, there is only one original rule about the amount of steals. That rule is, that a gift can only be stolen ONCE per turn. Which means, players who have a gift stolen from them have to wait to get it back.

There are however, popular variations of these rules. Luckily, we are here to help you avoid any family drama. Follow these White Elephant Dos and Do Nots and you should have a very merry Christmas.

  • DO Establish The Rules FIRST

    If you decide to play this game, go with “house” rules. Meaning, whatever the host decides. You don’t want to aggravate the person hosting you.

  • DON'T complain if your gift gets stolen

    Remember, it’s not technically a gift meant for you specifically. It’s all part of the game and part of the fun. Don’t be a sore loser.

  • DO adhere to the rules

    Play along and play well. If you know that a gift has hit its limit on steals, don’t try to deceive everyone or lie about the amount of times it’s been stolen. Someone is always paying attention

  • DON'T steal something if you know someone else really wants it

    Be a good sport. If your 8 year old niece got excited over a fuzzy blanket, let her have it. Don’t be a bully.

  • DON'T bring a crummy gift

    Make sure you follow the dollar amount that’s been established and any themes that may be chosen for the game. No one wants the old candle that’s been sitting in your closet.

  • DO follow these easy tips on chosing a great gift

    Choose a gift that:

    Can be used with others: a board game, food basket, popular DVDs, etc.

    Can solve a problem: practical gifts like de-icer kits, leather shoe car, charging devices, etc

    Self-care: bath and body, spa or aromatherapy, gift cards etc.

    Popular Variations

    While the above rules are as close to the “vanilla” version of the game as you can get, there’s really no right or wrong way to play. Over the years, many new ideas have been incorporated into the gift swap game, with the aim of keeping the game moving and/or making it more strategic. Here are some rules tweaks many people use:

    Three Swaps and You’re Out. If you get stolen from three times during the game, you are out of the game and can no longer be stolen from.

    Three Swaps and the Gift is Out. If a present gets stolen three times, it’s out of the game and the person who holds it gets to walk away with it.

    No Extra Turn/No Extra Swapping. Some people don’t allow the first player to swap at the end. Or, if they do, the first person simply gets to swap once with no additional swapping allowed.


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