White Elephant Gift Exchange Theme and Game Variations

white elephant gift exchange variations

White elephant gift exchanges are a great way to celebrate the holidays and participate in giving gifts to loved ones/friends without breaking the bank! Everyone comes with a gift and leaves with a gift. Most of us know the typical white elephant format, but here are some creative twists that will spice up your white elephant party this year!


Specific Category

Some white elephant parties require that you stick to a theme or category when purchasing a gift. Some examples might be:

  • Something made out of chocolate
  • Must start with a certain letter of the alphabet
  • Homemade gifts
  • Useful items
  • Things you can wear
  • Socks
  • Lotions
  • Ornaments
  • Gag gifts
  • Gifts from the 80’s

Gift Card Roulette

This one is easy, peasy, lemon-squeezy and perfect if you have friends with very busy lives. No scouring Amazon or traipsing down to Walmart for a gift. Everyone simply purchases a gift card of the same value to the store of their choice and places it in an envelope. This is fair and simple and everyone is happy in the end because they all spent and received back the same amount.

Related: 20 Great Missionary Christmas Gifts

Clone Gifts

This type of white elephant requires each participant to use the same exact size box/gift bag to wrap their gift. When it’s your turn to select a gift, there is no sizing up and down the pile for the fanciest wrapping paper. It’s an even playing field and you could end up with a cozy fleece blanket or a toilet plunger for all you know! But that’s really the fun of the game, right?!

Gimme a Hint!

In this variation, the giver is allowed to attach a note to the gift to indicate what it might be. For example, the label might say, “Keep refrigerated,” “Use with caution,” or “One of a kind.”


Dirty Santa

Length: 1-1.5 hours

Number of People: 10-20

Usually, with a White Elephant Gift exchange, everyone draws a number, you go in order choosing a gift from the pile, and you open it. However, with this version, you can either choose a gift from the pile or steal a gift someone else has already opened. This can get pretty hilarious, but also out of hand, so make sure you put a limit to how many times a gift can change hands (usually two or three).

Related: Party Themes to Spice up Ward Christmas Activities

With Dice

Length: 1-1.5 hours

Number of People: 8-15

Here is a description from WhiteElephantGame.com:

The game rules are that each person rolls a pair of dice, and whenever someone rolls doubles, they get to pick a gift from the pile. They may also be able to steal a gift from someone else. However, with the dice variation, people often simply keep the gift they choose from the pile.

If no stealing is allowed, then each person continues to roll the dice until there’s only one person and one present remaining.

Left-Right Story

Length: 15 minutes

Number of People: 5 or more (great for large groups)

With this variation, everyone chooses a gift and then sits in a circle. It doesn’t really matter which one they choose, because they will probably not end up with that specific item. A narrator reads a “left/right” Christmas story (see several options below), and gifts are passed from neighbor to neighbor (either left or right depending on what word the narrator reads). When the story is over, you end up with the gift that was last passed to you! Gifts can be opened one at a time to savor the moment, or if you are in a hurry, they can be opened in a mad frenzy all at once!

Left-Right Santa Story from It’s Always Autumn

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Left-Right Story from The Game Gal

Christmas with the Right Family from Happy Home Fairy

Left-Right Nativity Story from Ripple Children’s Ministry

Jasmine has degrees in Spanish and International Relations from BYU and has always had a love for writing ever since she penned her first haiku at age 9. She and her husband, Shawn, are the the parents of 8 children, who keep her very busy when she is not writing for Third Hour.