Updated White ELephant Rules

The magical holiday season is fast approaching, a time to enjoy with family, friends, and work colleagues, especially so if you're going to a Christmas party. Certainly, no one is interested in adhering to rules when going to a Christmas party. They're more interested in stuffing their faces with too many cookies and having one too many glasses of the spiked punch.

There are a few rules though that must be followed, just like any other game, so the White Elephant Exchange will run smoothly. There are some fundamental rules that must be followed to ensure that the game is played correctly, along with some optional rules that have the potential to make the White Elephant Exchange more fun depending on the group playing and the number of participants.

The Basic White Elephant Rules

Listed bellow are the basic rules that must be followed for a White Elephant Exchange to be played. There's no deviating from these rules so it's best to be well acquainted with these ones.

Each Guest Must Bring A Single Present

Everyone participating in the White Elephant Exchange must ensure they bring one gift with them. Showing up with no gift means that someone will not receive anything and more than one gift is just overkill.

Wrap Gifts So That No One Can Guess Content

It's important that every gift is wrapped and in such a way that people cannot easily guess what lies beneath the paper. In fact, it's encouraged to wrap your gift in a way that makes it look completely different than what it actually is. Perhaps placing your small gift in an over sized box and adding weight to it with a few trusty stones.

Do Not Swap Gift That Was Just Swapped From You

Pay attention to this rule because without it your game may never progress. If a players gift is stolen then they are not permitted to steal back the same gift immediately. Without this rule there is the potential to have two players in a never ending swap and that's just no fun.

White Elephant Rule Variations (Optional)

Apart from the basic rules, that are a must to follow, there are some optional rules that have the potential to make a White Elephant Exchange a whole lot more exciting. Optional rules can also make things run more smoothly when you have an exceptionally small or large group of participants.

An example of this could be having numerous rounds of stealing gifts, as to ensure the game doesn't end too quickly. And with larger groups less rounds, so the game doesn't drag on.

Have a look at some of the most popular variations to White Elephant rules listed bellow.

Spending Limits

Although it's pretty common knowledge that players should spend roughly $20-$25 on their gifts, it's best to remind people of the price set when the White Elephant Exchange is being organized. You want to make it so gifts are of similar value, so setting a price limit or range will ensure this.

Now not all parties will have a budget in place because they may decide that everyone bring an unwanted item that they already have at home.

Poetry, Rhyme or Story Guided Play

Normally, everyone draws a number to decide the order in which people will have their turn, instead they may pick a poem with directions in it, such as left, right, across. This will determine the direction in which the gift goes and who will be the recipient. As people hear the directional cues this determines where gifts go.

Gifts By A White Elephant Theme

A prevalent tradition of a White Elephant Exchange is to have theme gifts. Themed gifts could be baked goods, ugly Christmas sweaters, DIY gifts, books with funny titles, ect. Themed gifts can make it easier for everyone because they will have a pretty good idea of what to bring and this will ensure that gifts are all around the same value. It can also make your party that much more memorable.

Last Opened Gift Ends The Game

This rule variation motivates players to steal and swap gifts throughout the game, but once the last gift is opened the game comes to an end. This is a great rule to have if you have a group of 20 or more people. Without it, it's likely for your game to drag on for ages with a large group.

Final Swap For The Lucky First

If you decide to play with this rule, then the person who picked first will have the opportunity to swap their gift once all gifts have been opened. If you decide not to have any swap or steal rounds then this will make things a bit more fair for the first person. Who may not have had their gift stolen, therefore making it so they didn't have an opportunity for even one steal.

Final Swap For The Lucky First With A Twist

The above rule can put the first player at an advantage to end up with the best gift, so this variation is used. The first player may only get the last swap if they were never stolen from. Having this rule in place insures things with run a little more fairly and that's important for a White Elephant Exchange to run smoothly.

Final Immunity

You are not permitted to steal a gift from the person who just stole a gift or opened a gift.

Circus Juggle

Wild Elephant is a timed period period of swapping and is a whole lot of fun. After all the gifts are opened, a timer is set, usually from anywhere between 1 to 3 minutes is pretty popular. During the timer period gifts are swapped and when the timer goes off you take home whatever gift is in your hands. Wild Elephant is very fast paced, therefore adding lots of excitement to the environment.

Open First

This is a good rule to implement for large groups, so the game doesn't drag on unnecessarily. Players cannot start to steal until all gifts have been unwrapped.

Thee And Person Out!

If a player is stolen from three times, the third gift they are swapped is now theirs and they are out of the game. For those who enjoy playing with strategy in their game this can be a useful rule to implement. If timed correctly, you can eliminate a player holding a gift you have no interest in receiving yourself.

Three And Gift Is Out

This rule is similar to the aforementioned rule, but in this case the gift can't be swapped more than three times. On the third swap, the gift and person who got the gift are out of the game.

Want To Share Your Favorite Rules?

There's many more fun rules that can be played with a White Elephant Exchange, maybe you've just come up with your very own. If you think you've got a good one share it with us.
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