One of my favorite things to do at Christmas is a gift swap.
The whole idea of opening gifts that you have no idea what is inside, then swapping/stealing gifts from other people, just makes me smile.
I don’t know about you.  But I like to win the swap.
You may be confused, as swaps don’t generally have a winner and a looser.
Clearly, you are playing them incorrectly.
I’m the most competitive person at non-competitive games EVER, and apparently very liberal with hyperbole today.
If the thought of playing anything competitively makes you break out in hives. Stop reading now.  You will be covered from head to toe before you get through this.
Of course, all good games have RULES. 
I love me some rules.
You can’t know how to win without knowing the rules.
I prefer to create the rules, (shocker) and I was reminded recently that last year at our family gift swap I announced to everyone “here are the rules, they are non-negotiable,” which I don’t dispute because it does sound like something I would say.
I’m not exactly a swap tyrant (maybe a little bit).  I do welcome input from a few select individuals, but let’s be honest, rules by consensus are never a good idea.  Someone has to be in charge, it might as well be me.
(Anyone getting hives yet?)
In case you are interested in instituting a swap game at your holiday gathering, here are the rules we play with at our family party.
1.       You must bring a good gift, not a gag gift- gender neutral is best
2.       18 or older
3.       Each person draws a number to determine the order and all the wrapped presents are placed in the middle.
4.       No touching the presents while choosing.  You touch it, you take it.
5.       Once you chose a present, you unwrap it and show the group
6.       You can’t choose the present you brought from the middle, but you can steal if from someone once it’s been opened
7.       Each turn has 1 pick and up to 3 steals
      Example: Person #5 gets to pick (either from the middle or from someone else), then there can be 3 steals after that, then the 4th person has to pick from the middle.

Pick             Jane has number 5.  She picks Jim’s present.
Steal #1      Jim then steals Sam’s present
Steal #2     Sam then steals Mary’s present
Steal #3      Mary then steals Paul’s present
4th      Paul has to pick from the middle
8.      No steal backs (ie you can’t steal back the present someone just stole from you in the same turn)
9.       No present ever becomes off limits
10.   #1 gets to steal at the very end.  Since they have already had their “pick,” there are just 3 steals in that turn and the 4th person has to take the left over item.
Now, in a perfect world, here are the extra rules I would impose.
1.       You must bring a GOOD gift (something you would want to receive).  No bad crap, used crap or otherwise weird crap.  A boxing nun is NOT funny, neither is a used Fred Meyer gift card with $7.24 left on it.  If you bring something like that I will be mad and then will impose rule #2.

For the record, my idea of a good gift is any of the following: gift cards, cash, alcohol, movie tickets, scratch tickets, cooking sauces/spices/oils, gift baskets, home d├ęcor & kitchen stuff.
2.       If your gift is deemed bad by the group (majority vote), you are forced to forfeit and take your own gift home with you (kind of like gift-swap survivor).
3.       The price “limit” is not so much a limit, as a set value.  Your gift must be worth that amount, not any amount lower than that. It’s not the Price is Right, it’s not whoever is closest without going over.  If your gift is too low in value refer to rule #2.
4.       There is no crying/whining in gift swap.  If you don’t understand the rules, clear up your confusion before the game starts.  We will not stop to explain the rules to you ½ way through, and when you get upset that you didn’t understand, I will have no sympathy for you.
Now with all that said.  There is some gift swap strategy that you should know.
1.       When it is your turn, steal the gift that has already been stolen lots (or seems like it will be stolen lots).  It doesn’t matter what it is or if you even want that present.  By taking a gift that is popular with your crowd, you are guaranteeing yourself another turn because you know someone will steal it from you.  This is especially important if you have a low number.  You want to buy yourself some time and have more gifts get opened, so you have more gift options.
2.       Work in a team.  This is where the winners are separated from the losers.  You need to find a partner to swap with.  This way, you can get around the “no steal backs” rule. If someone steals from you, you steal your partner’s gift, then they steal your gift back for you.  Then you swap after the game is over.  The key is to not use this strategy too early.  You need to use it at the very end so you both end up with what you want.  The people not working in a team will most likely be shooting you dagger eyes, but they are mostly just jealous that they didn’t have a partner.
So there you have it.  My keys to winning at a gift swap.
Lucky for me, my husband is just as crazy as me (although he keeps more it on the down low than I do). We spend our whole drive home high-fiving each other on our excellent swap strategy and masterful moves. Nothing I love more than celebrating a big win for Team Chrisi-Ash or Ashi-Chris or Cr-ash (clearly I’m still perfecting the team name).
In a perfect world, all the gifts would be great, and you would be happy to go home with anything from the game.  In the real world, someone is going home with a Snuggie(without the book light), and you can bet it’s not going to be me.


  1. Oh how this just made me laugh out loud. It definitely works when there are two of the same gifts out there ie nordstrom cards. That was probably one of the funnest Christmas parties at grandmas. Definitely must be played every year.


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