Holiday Gift Exchange IDEAS and EXPLANATIONS for any kind of holiday gathering…even the BARN PARTY kind!

With the holidays approaching at what feels like warp speed, which by the way, happens every year, why does it feel like we're never really ready for them to happen? They seem to approach faster and faster every year and for lack of a better term, go from a hurry up and wait situation to, we don’t even know what hit us.

If your Christmas is anything like ours, it's a hustle and bustle time of year with so many added social commitments, that sometimes we can’t even wrap our heads around what we need to get done, let alone what we've committed to!

It starts with a staff party, then moves to dinner and drinks with friends.  Usually a get together with one, two or five families, not to mention the barn parties (including our own) that we are so grateful to be included in, but that's all before we even host our own family for the holidays.

So, with that said, this year we decided to be uber organized if with nothing else, the ever popular gift exchange plan that usually happens at each one of these events.  We thought we would share our ideas for everyone to tap into and they will hopefully fill your cup like they do ours.

The holidays are filled with amazing opportunities for creative gift exchanges and with a few ideas and tips, gift giving can bring so much joy to both givers and receivers. 

Also Read: Holiday Gift Exchange IDEAS and EXPLANATIONS for any kind of holiday gathering

Keep reading to discover some creative ways to incorporate a fun gift exchange into your next event with family, coworkers, and friends that we are sure will be a huge hit!

Secret Santa: An oldie but a goodie. This classic works in any situation and is a helpful go to for all occasions. It's a simple concept that’s easy to follow. First you set a price limit that’s comfortable for your group. Each participant draws a name from a hat and keeps it a secret as to who's name they drew.

They then buy a gift for the person’s name that they drew staying within the agreed upon budget. After all the gifts have been distributed you can either have the gift givers identify themselves, or a fun twist is to have each recipient try and guess who their gift is from.

Yankee Swap: Instead of drawing names from a hat like you do for a secret Santa, in a Yankee Swap, each person buys one gift within the predetermined gift budget and wraps it keeping their gift a secret. When it comes time to have the gift giving ceremony, person number one selects and opens a gift of their choice before person number two, with each recipient waiting until the previous person has opened their gift before proceeding.

Each recipient can choose to steal one of the already opened gifts from someone that went before them or select a new wrapped gift. For those that have their gift stolen, they will get the chance to select and open a new gift.

White Elephant: Another classic that usually brings a lot of laughter and maybe even a little drama. Usually reserved for the adult only parties but can be just as fun for all age groups. In this type of gift exchange, participants follow the same rules as a Yankee Swap, but this time you can choose rules for the gifts, aka gaga gifts, themed gifts.

This is a great exchange for a crowd that has a sense of humor. You can regift things that you already own, or find a strange, weird, or unique gift that you think someone might be able to use.

Pick a theme: This is an easy one that always fun and keeps everyone on the same playing field. Your host/hostess can either select a theme, or your group can collectively decide on a theme prior to your event. It's fun to get everyone involved and ask them to submit themes that can be chosen from a hat.

Scavenger Hunt: who would have thought that this would make an amazing gift exchange event. It’s great for kids or mixed age groups and fun for families too. It’s as simple as wrap the donated gifts, hide them, seek them, and unwrap the gift you found with the whole group.

Trivia Swap: For all our competitive spirits out there, this could be the choice for you! Host a trivia night with gifts as prizes. Follow the same concept of selecting a price cap and having each guest bring a wrapped gift to the event. Get started with your lightning-fast trivia round and those with the most correct responses get to select the first gift.

Mug Exchange: We love this option because it creates an even playing field in terms of gift type but allows for a creative spirit to shine. Each guest brings a mug (maybe one with a unique embellishment or a coffee tumbler) filled with small treats, goodies, or homemade snacks (paying close attention to any allergies that may exist of course) to the exchange, and the crafty mugs are used as gifts in a Secret Santa, Yankee or trivia swap. They can be used with however you want to exchange your gifts and are creative and fun.

"Give to Give Back": This is by far our favorite option for a gift exchange because it helps those that are in the greatest need. It’s a great alternative and makes you feel like you are part of something bigger.

Instead of buying gifts, each guest draws a name and then makes a monetary contribution, a commitment of time or donates something else that fits the bill to that person’s charity of choice. Trust us, you cannot go wrong with this feel-good gift exchange that is a win-win for all.

Cookie Swap: This is self-explanatory and deliciously fun for all ages. Rather than buying gifts, have guests of the event bake or bring in their favorite cookie recipe (disclaimer...again with the allergies clause) and set them up as a big spread. Everyone can enjoy the spread and take some home with them. Add a fun twist and ask for people to share their recipes (if they are comfortable) as the gift that keeps on giving year after year.

Tasty Treaties Swap: Ideal for our furry friends, our choice is horses of course. This is the same as a cookie swap, but for our pets and animals instead. A quick tidbit of advice though, it might not be the safest to have a collection of animals feasting their hearts out with a spread of treats but there are plenty of natural recipes online where you could bake some treats for the animals of choice and send them home with the owners. Their waistline will love you for it!

Sing to Win: Finally, this is a gift exchange that puts your guests in the hot seat... metaphorically, not literally. It’s musical chairs but your guests are playing for gifts. Have your guests sit in a circle and pass a gift around to the melodic tune of a holiday jingle. When the music stops, mid-sentence of course, your guest that’s left with the gift in their hands will need to complete the line in their loudest and best singing voice.

If they are successful, they get to keep the gift and exit the game, if not, start the game again and see who is next up in the hot seat!

These are a few of our best ideas for holiday gift exchanges and if you are looking for some great gift inspiration, click here for some budget friendly gift ideas that we are sure will work for you.

Have a safe and wonderful holiday season and we’ll be back atcha in the new year!  Be well and thank you for reading.

Related Articles: Equestrian Holiday Gift Guide 101


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