The Christmas game “White Elephant Gift Exchange is all about giving each other the most delightfully junky things and then stealing them from each other.

2. December 2023 - Alexander Schmidt

White Elephant Gift Exchange – The "Dirty" Way to Secret Santa




Coffee cups with leprechaun noses, inflatable slippers, edible thongs or butt-ugly ties – the Christmas gift game “White Elephant Gift Exchange” is all about giving each other the most delightfully junky things and then stealing them from each other. A feast!

Everybody knows Secret Santa; there are numerous variations of it, from the serious selection of a gift for a person you have drawn, to Green Secret Santa, where you only give away plants, to Scrap Secret Santa, where you give away worthless, but as funny as possible junk.

In the Anglo-Saxon world, a variant of junk santa is particularly popular, aptly named “Dirty Santa”, but also known as “Yankee Swap” or “White Elephant Gift Exchange”. Not only are the objects exchanged as absurdly as possible and unusable by ordinary standards, but one even becomes a thief in the process, stealing others’ gifts in order to slip them a particularly unwelcome present.

The White Elephant Thing…

“What’s up with these white elephants?” you may ask. A look into the history of the Far East explains what this is all about: In earlier times, the King of Siam (now Thailand) is said to have given a white elephant as a gift to courtiers who had provoked his anger. On the surface, the gift of such a rare animal was a great honor to the courtier, but in reality the care of an elephant was so costly that it almost certainly ruined the recipient financially. And refusing a gift from the king was, of course, out of the question.

In the USA, people jokingly refer to gifts that they would rather throw in the trash can as “white elephants”. Who came up with the rules of the “White Elephant Gift Exchange” or “Dirty Santa” is unfortunately not known, but I’m almost certain that it was someone with a proper mischief in the neck. Because this is just about gifting the other players with the most absurd, ugly and useless “white elephants” possible. A heck of a lot of fun! ?

White Elephant Gift Exchange – The Iron Rules of the Nastiest Christmas Game

Okay, I’ll admit it right now: there are no ironclad rules in a White Elephant Gift Exchange. Rather, there are countless variations, you should simply agree on one of them. We played White Elephant Gift Exchange with the following rules and had a fantastic time with it:

Basic Rules

  1. Each participant of the game procures a gift as junk as possible and wraps it in wrapping paper. It should not be recognizable what is hidden in the packaging. In advance, you should definitely agree on a price range, optionally also a motto.
  2. All gifts are piled in a central location.
  3. Everyone now blindly draws a number (there should be as many numbers as there are players) and sits down in this order in a circle around the gift table.
  4. The player with the number 1 may now take a gift from the table, unwrap it and present it to everyone. Since the No. 1 has a special position, you can also simply give this to the host.
  5. Each additional person now gets to either take a new gift from the table or steal someone else’s gift.
  6. Whoever was robbed may now also take a gift from the table or steal from someone.
  7. But you can’t steal back the gift you just stole!
  8. If there is a “chain” of thefts, the 3rd person who was stolen from may not continue stealing, but must take a gift from the table. Then it goes on with the next number.
  9. When all players have a gift the 2nd round begins: first the person with the No. 1 may now also steal someone’s gift.
  10. The victim receives No. 1’s gift in return, but may now swap it in turn with someone, provided that person has never been stolen from.
  11. A White Elephant Gift Exchange ends when no one can or wants to steal presents anymore.

Optional Additional Rules

  1. A gift can be stolen a maximum of 3 times, after that it belongs to its last thief.
  2. Each player can be stolen from a maximum of 3 times and is then protected.
  3. Chaos Alarm Clock: Person #1 gets to set an alarm clock at the beginning of each round to a time known only to him. When it rings, everyone must pass their gift to the person to their left.
  4. Etc.

You can expand “White Elephant Gift Exchange” with your own rules and let off steam creatively. However, we recommend not to make it too complicated and especially the first time just play the basic variant to get a feeling for the game dynamics 😉

White Elephant Gift Exchange – 10 Gift Ideas Straight From Hell

Half the fun in this game comes from the constant back and forth of gifts through stealing and swapping, but the other half comes from the originality of the gifts. When choosing gifts for Dirty Santa, the goal is to find something as funny, crazy, or just delightfully junky as possible that meets all the criteria of properly “good bad taste.”

For inspiration we have put together a little list* here… 😉

  1. Inflatable slippers
Aufblasbare Hawaii Badeschuhe Blau Schuhe aufblasbar Badelatschen Fasching Party
Aufblasbare Hawaii Badeschuhe Blau Schuhe aufblasbar Badelatschen Fasching Party
Aufblasbare Strandsandalen, Hawaii Badeschuhe; Länge ca. 56cm; Material: PVC
  1. Eatable underwear
Essbare Unterwäsche Candy Posing Pouch für Manner
Essbare Unterwäsche Candy Posing Pouch für Manner
eßbare männer essbar set erotik spencer sugar; pleasureisland; deutschland bonbon essbaren und mens edible frauen
8,07 EUR Amazon Prime
  1. Bullshit Button
[UK-Import]Bulls**t Button
[UK-Import]Bulls**t Button
Aufleuchtend 'BULLSHIT' bush knöpfe mit gesprochen geräusch effekten; Inklusive Batterien (2x AAA)
20,90 EUR
  1. Toilet paper with jokes
Toilettenpapier WC WITZE
Toilettenpapier WC WITZE
5,90 EUR
  1. Quack gum

Keine Produkte gefunden.

  1. Pig Nose Mug
Senmubery Lustige Hund Schwein Nase Becher Tasse Kreative Keramik Mark Getraenke Lachen Tee Kaffeetassen Schwein Nase
Senmubery Lustige Hund Schwein Nase Becher Tasse Kreative Keramik Mark Getraenke Lachen Tee Kaffeetassen Schwein Nase
Kaffee- oder Teebecher, der beim Trinken komische und reizvolle 3D-Visuals kreiert.; Lustiger Neuheits-Hundekarpfen-Nasen-Kaffee-Tee-Becher
13,03 EUR
  1. Mouse Goulash

Keine Produkte gefunden.

  1. Passing the A… past – The crumpled Buddha
  1. Chicken Foot Stockings
  1. Kitschy elephant figurines

Want some more inspiration? You’re welcome: check out our three lists of Secret Santa gifts!

Enjoy and have christmas fun playing “White Elephant Gift Exchange”!

While you’re here, stay a little longer and browse through our Christmas tips and other ideas. Outside of the festive season, you’ll also find plenty of leisure tips and ideas for activities with friends, with your partner or the whole family.

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*This article contains so-called affiliate links. This means that if you order something through one of these links, we may receive a small commission without the product being even a cent more expensive for you.


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