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Kick your boring gift exchange party up a notch this year!

Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a good old-fashioned game of scheming and stealing!  Whether you call it White Elephant or Dirty Santa - the end result is the same. Not sure where the term “Dirty Santa” originated but it is not only popular in the U.S. but also in other countries where Christmas is celebrated. Popular belief is that this gift exchange stems from ancient Siam (now Thailand). As history has it, a very annoyed King of Siam gave a courtier (an aristocrat who frequently visits/attends the royal court) a “real” white elephant–knowing the courtier couldn’t refuse this ridiculous gift. Luckily, no live elephants are being exchanged these days but happy this tradition continues in a much more amusing (and manageable) way. Dirty Santa tends to be geared more toward a new gift in the $15-$25 range while White Elephant lends itself to something that is free and tackier the better. If your annual co-worker, supper club, or extended family get-together needs something other than cheese balls and small talk, add this festivity to your Christmas party playlist. Like all games, there are rules. However, the rules for this game aren’t quite set in stone. Usually it’s up to the host or hostess to set them but the gist is always the same.

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  1. Select a theme and dollar limit for your exchange. THEME IDEAS: woodland animal ornaments, funny coffee mugs, or silly socks.
  2. Send a party invitation to bring an unsigned wrapped gift using your guidelines. WRAPPING TIP: The more interesting the wrapping, the more excitement to choose your gift early on. Try wrapping the package in several layers of paper or different size boxes.
  3. Choose a central location (such as under the Christmas tree) for the gifts. HOST TIP: Make sure your personal presents are removed or someone may be going home with the fancy blender intended for Aunt Suzy.
  4. Everyone draws a number from a hat (or bowl or basket) - numbered 1 through however many are participating. The person with #1 starts the game.
  5. Let’s start the game…
  • #1 selects a gift from the pile (after much thought and deliberation), opens it, and shows it to everyone.
  • #2 can choose to steal #1’s gift (aka “Dirty Santa”) or pick from the pile. This continues with each person having the chance to steal or choose a wrapped gift. The stealing and scheming now begins to erupt along with lots of laughter.
  • A gift can be stolen more than once but generally no more than 3 times and only once per turn. If your gift is stolen, you can’t steal it right back. You have to steal another gift or choose from the pile. Don’t forget about the awesome gifts that just may be hiding hoping you’ll forget they’re still in play!
  • One variation, each participant can only be stolen from three times at which point they are out of the game and the gift they’re left holding is theirs to keep unless they want to steal or choose an unwrapped gift.
  • When there are no more unwrapped gifts, typically the person who drew #1 is allowed one more turn. However, they can only steal a gift. If they choose not to steal and keep the one they have, the game is over. If they decide to steal then the game continues until someone wants to keep their gift.

Not sure if Rudolph and friends included this in their Reindeer Games but they should have! Ho!Ho!Ho!