5 Ways to Spice Up Your Annual Gift Exchange This Holiday Season

“Wow- a horse calendar. Thanks, Aunt Dorothy?”


It’s that time of year.


It’s the season of giving- and the season of the classic escape of giving everyone you love something, the gift exchange. 


Maybe your friends are partial to the iconic “Secret Santa” routine, a true test to determine whether or not you really know your friends.


Or perhaps they enjoy the “White Elephant” version. Were you lucky enough to snag a gift card out of a pile of wrapped junk? Yeah, you won’t have it for long.


While the following gift exchange adaptations aren’t going to solve these problems 100% of the time, they may help you in finding what to buy or in coming home with something you’ll actually use. If it doesn’t work out, well- it’s the holidays. It’s the season of regifting, too.


1.) The Mug Exchange


Instead of picking from an assortment of wrapped gifts and hoping you selected something useful, come home with a shiny new coffee, tea or cocoa holder this year by using this version of the White Elephant.


Pick out a mug that anyone in your party would enjoy (or not- there’s always room for a mug nobody wants, and it’ll get a lot of good use from all the regifting). Before you begin the exchange, draw straws or pick numbers out of a hat to determine the order of mug-picking.

Then, pick mugs in order- if you want a true White Elephant, allow the steals a normal version would entail. 


If you and your buddies are really feeling feisty, fill your mugs with candy or put a small gift on the inside- that way, everyone goes home with a mug and a little something special.


2.) The Experience Exchange


This version is a great way to give memories, not items. Plus, you can do it in a Secret Santa or White Elephant format!


Pick out a cool experience- for example tickets to something like a museum, comedy club concert, a spa gift card, or a gift certificate for a cooking class. These are easy to wrap! All you need is an envelope. If you haven’t already chosen the person getting your gift prior to the exchange, draw straws or pick numbers. Then, pick an envelope and enjoy the experience you come out with!


3.) The Book Exchange


This one’s a classic- it gained Instagram popularity last season, and is a great for groups of literary fiends. 


It’s just like what is sounds- pick out your favorite book and wrap it. If you’re feeling extra jolly, write a little holiday greeting in the cover. If you haven’t already chosen the person getting your gift prior to the exchange, draw straws or pick numbers. Then, pick a book and enjoy the one you come out with!


4.) The Dinner Party Exchange


We ask people to bring a dish or dessert for Thanksgiving every year- why not carry it into the upcoming months? 


Have each person in your group pick their favorite appetizer, main or side dish, dessert or drink and have each person or couple bring one to dinner one night! It’s a fun way to enjoy a great meal and spend it with good company.


5.) The Holi-dates Exchange


Some friend groups evolve into groups of couples- and if it does, it’s not a bad thing!


This exchange idea goes hand in hand with the Experience Exchange, but, as the title would imply, is more suited for couples. You and your special someone will pick out a date idea- a movie gift card and movie snacks, tickets to a comedy club or museum, or food for a picnic, for example- and wrap it.  Then, if you haven’t already chosen the couple getting your gift prior to the exchange, draw straws or pick numbers. Each couple will go home with a fun date to enjoy!


These aren’t here to cancel out your family traditions- maybe you’ll try one this Christmas and never use it again- or, it could become a new tradition!


Happy Holidays!