6 Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas To Throw Your Best Party Yet

Ideas for every kind of holiday exchange.

People giving a gift
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Nothing says "Christmas" like a gift exchange: the anticipation of wrapping something special and watching its recipient excitedly dig in; receiving thoughtful gifts of your own from friends and family members. That said, it's not always easy to strike the right balance of fun and sweetness, and at their worst, gift exchange parties can feel a little stilted. Never fear! We've created a sure-fire list of the very best ways to celebrate the holiday season, shower your people with presents, and, most importantly, ensure that everyone has a blast.

For Your Neighborhood: White Elephant

This tried and true classic is best played among friends where stealing a gift won't ruffle feathers. Set a price limit, assign your guests numbers, and start opening in order. But beware – if someone likes the gift you opened, it can be stolen twice before it's considered "frozen" to its final recipient. Bonus points for choosing a theme around which all gifts must be centered, for example: "All gifts must be bought from local vendors," or "For the bar!"

For Your Coworkers: Cookie Swap

Truly, there is nothing better than leaving a party with more treats than you brought. Bake (or, in a pinch, buy) your favorite sweet treat to offer to your fellow party-goers. Instruct your guests to bring their own favorite holiday delicacy. Once everyone has arrived, display the goodies on a center island or dining room table and offer everyone the opportunity to sample. For added fun, turn it into a contest: While your guests taste, dole out scorecards for them to anonymously vote for their favorites. Be sure to provide your guests with take-home containers to allow for at-home enjoyment, as there'll surely be leftovers to spare.

For Your Besties: Best of the Year

A brilliant concept that has recently gained steam is the "Best of the Year" party, wherein each guest brings a product (within a previously decided price range) that "won the year" for them. Maybe it's a delicious candle, an amazing skincare find, a cozy blanket, or a cooking tool. Play White Elephant or simply put gifts under the tree to open in order with no stealing. However you dole them out, each guest is guaranteed to get something that will actually add value to their life instead of a less personal trinket that might get stored in a closet until next year.

For Your Book Club: Books and Brews

Assign each member an easy task: Bring your favorite book and your favorite bottle—wine, beer, or bubbles. Easily switch to a non-alcoholic version by encouraging ciders, kombuchas, or sparkling water. Help guests make their choices fun by assigning a category like "favorite novel of the last ten years" or "book that had the greatest impact on you as a child." Allowing people to explain why they chose the book they gifted allows for a great "get-to-know-you" opportunity, bringing your guests even closer together.

For Your Extended Family: Ugly Sweater Contest

Though it's not technically a gift exchange, the classic Ugly Sweater party definitely pays it forward. A perfect fit for family gatherings where there's a good sense of humor among the guests, this party sets the stage for everyone to show off their unique personalities. Send invitations encouraging your guests to wear their most ridiculous, tackiest, and…well, ugliest holiday-themed sweaters—the funnier, the better! Once food and drinks have been passed and everyone is feeling merry, use an old fashioned "applause-meter" to decide the winner. But there's a catch: He who wears the ugliest sweater hosts next year's party.

For the Kids: Cobweb Parties

What's old is new again: This Victorian-era tradition has come back as an incredibly wholesome way to keep children guessing. Before they arrive, gather brightly-colored yarn in different hues. Choose one gift per color of yarn, tie the gift to the end, then unwind the skein throughout the house —weave it around banisters, bed frames, furniture legs, up and down a room in every imaginable direction (just remember to keep it within the height range of your smallest guest!). Assign each child their color and watch them go. Children love this game because it combines the excitement of getting a present with a scavenger hunt.

However large or small your gathering, you can't miss with one of these party themes. What are you waiting for? Choose your date and send the invitations!

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