A How-To Guide for Gift Exchanges at Your Corporate Holiday Party


The holidays are a time for giving, and what better way to break the ice at your corporate holiday party than by organizing a gift exchange!  It will get people talking and enjoying themselves, and it will eliminate the need for employees to play guessing games on which coworkers they should get presents for and how much they should spend.

There are many different kinds of gift exchanges, including grab bag, auctions, guess the gift and more, but the two most well-known are the white elephant gift exchange and Secret Santa.  Here’s how they work:

White Elephant Gift Exchange

White Elephant


In the White Elephant Gift Exchange everyone brings a present that costs about the
same small amount, usually $10-$15.

The first person picks a present and un-wraps it.  The second person then has the choice to either pick the first person’s present (in which case the first person then picks another gift and un-wraps it) or a wrapped gift.  The third person can pick from the first or second person’s present or a wrapped gift and so on until everybody has picked, at which point the exchange is over.

Now in order to keep turns from continuing indefinitely most white elephant gift exchanges involve a couple of additional rules.  The first is that each item can only be stolen once per round.  The second is that each round can only involve a certain number of “steals”, between 3-5, before an unwrapped present must be picked, ending the round.

This gift exchange works best when you have at least 6 people and no more than 30.  If your company has more than 30 people you may want to consider splitting them into two or more groups.  This doesn’t have to be done ahead of time or need to be into groups that already know each other.  In fact, this can be a fun ice-breaker to get people in different departments interacting!

Secret Santa

Santa hat

For the Secret Santa gift exchange you have to organize a time, a couple of weeks before the party, to draw names.  This can be done by having someone go around the office with a hat filled with the names of those participating.  Everybody draws a name from the hat and keeps it a secret.  The name that they draw is the name of the person they are getting a present for so if they draw their own name they should put it back and draw again.  Make the price limit for the gifts known at this time.

At the holiday party everybody will bring their gift and put it in a pile with the name of the person receiving it labeled.  When it’s time to unwrap the presents each person will go up, find their present, unwrap it, and then try to guess who gave it to them.

If you are organizing a Secret Santa gift exchange you should make sure that everybody in the group knows each other.  Nobody wants to get stuck buying a present for someone who they’ve never met before because they will have no idea what to get for them!  If you have a bigger company this can be done by doing the exchange department by department.

As the organizer of the gift exchange you should make sure to provide a couple of extra gifts just in case one of the participants forgets to bring one, because someone will forget!

Now go enjoy your holiday party and shopping for your gift!



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