Yankee Swap, Dirty Santa and White Elephant are basically the same gifts exchange game with the same rules apply. In spite of that, there are still some small differences between them.
In this article, we will cover their differences and the games’ rules. We will also suggest some fun variations of the game to you! Lastly, don’t miss out on our FREE printables! You can save a lot of work in hosting the game exchange party with our FREE printables!
What is the difference between Yankee Swap, Dirty Santa and White Elephant?
Apart from regional preference where the term
– ‘Yankee Swap’ is more popular in New England,
– ‘Dirty Santa’ is more to the Southern states,
– ‘White Elephant’ is known across the United States,
each of them is said to have different origins.
Today, as the terms evolve, their minor difference lies in that the term “white elephant gift” is more focused on the gift or present itself. White Elephant gifts are usually impractical gag gifts or gifts from home that just meant to bring laughter to the party.
While White Elephant and Yankee Swap apply the same method of playing, Yankee Swap encourages more useful gifts so that everyone brings home something practical.
On the other hand, Dirty Santa gift exchange is essentially the same thing as the two gift exchange games mentioned above. However, the name “Dirty Santa” concentrates more on the game itself where “dirty” implies the stealing involved.
Therefore, I would say that Dirty Santa is the combination of both White Elephant and Yankee Swap since any type of gifts are allowed in the game. But, you should probably focus more on the dirty tricks so that you bring home something great.
Unlike Secret Santa where participants get to know who the receiver will be beforehand, you will never know who will end up with your gift for White Elephant, Dirty Santa, and Yankee Swap gift exchange.
Below are the rules to guide you through the game. On top of that, we also suggested a few variations to make the game even more fun for you.
White Elephant/ Yankee Swap/ Dirty Santa Rules (Step-by-Step):
- You should have at least 5 participants to start the game (Otherwise it’s not fun).
- Pre-determine the price range of gifts to be exchanged such as “around $10”, “under $20” , “above $25”, and so on.
- Every participant must wrap the gift and place it at a central location. *No marking or label is allowed, and no one should know the owner of a gift except the owner himself!”
- Count the number of participants (let’s say we have 8 participants), then write down numbers 1-8 and on different small papers (our FREE printables did that for you) and put them inside a hat or bowl.
- Each participant draws a paper from the hat or bowl to determine the playing order of the participants.
- The participants who drew number 1 will have to pick a gift and unwrap it.
*Participants are allowed to gently shake, touch or listen to all the gifts to inspect them before unwrapping.
- The participant who drew number 2 can choose to unwrap a new gift OR steal the unwrapped gifts from number 1.
- The fashion continues such that number 3 can steal from number 1&2 and number 8 can steals from player 1 to 7.
- Whenever a participant’s gift is stolen, he/she shall choose to unwrap a new gift or steal from anyone.
Exception: During the first round of stealing where number 2 decides to steal from number 1, number 1 cannot steal back from number 2 and can only unwrap a new gift.
- You cannot steal a gift from the person who has previously stolen from you. (Too bad for you 😣)
- A gift can only be stolen 3 times.
- To be fair to player number 1 (so that he’s not left out), after everyone has their turn, participant number 1 gets to choose whether to keep his gift or steal or anyone else. (Remember rule number 10 & 11)
- The game ends when number 1 decides to keep his gift or after all the stealing is complete.
Recommended Fun Variations
It’s always fun to add something new to the game especially if you have been playing the same rules for many years. Try out the fun variations below!
- Have a Theme – Have everyone buy from the same store or getting the same gift category such as ornament gifts, regifts from home, DIY gifts or boardgames.
- Freeze the Thief – Instead of limiting how many times a gift can be stolen, put limits on how many times a person can steal.
- Pick a Gift First – One has to pick a gift (without unwrapping it) before deciding to keep it or steal other’s. If one chooses to keep it, he may unwrap the gift. If he chooses to steal other’s gift, he will have to exchange the picked gift with him. The person might purposely chose a bad gift (that he assumes) for the person he plans to steal and then regret for stealing.
- Head or Tail – Let a coin to decide whether to keep a gift or steal a gift! Head for keeping, tail for stealing!
- Fair and Square – The host will have to prepare a standard size box for all the participants. This way, less feeling is hurt!
- Keep it secret – All the gifts are wrapped until the end of the game.
- Reward the smarty – The host will have to prepare a special prize for the smarty-pants who gets to guess all the gifts owners correctly.
- Second round of stealing – We’ll explain it in the next section along with our free printables.
Free Printables for Yankee Swap, Dirty Santa and White Elephant
(Yes, there are 100% FREE, share with your friends if you find them useful. Sharing is caring! 😊)
As there are many variations to the games, you are advised to list down the rules for the participants to avoid cheating and conflict. Our FREE printables have done the job for you!
Simply enter your name and email address below to get ALL the FREE printables in PDF format (so that you can print in high quality!). Remember to send a copy to the participants before the gift exchange and display it during the day!
Yankee Swap Rules, Dirty Santa Rules, and White Elephant Rules Printables (4 Variations)
Each of the Yankee Swap Rules, Dirty Santa Rules, and White Elephant Rules Printables will have 4 sets of designs.
The Numbering Printable
This numbering printable is very useful! Just print them out and cut them into pieces. Then, put the paper pieces into a hat or bowl for the participants to pick and determine their order.
Gift Exchange using Dice and Ideas Printables
You can either have a second round of gift exchange after finish the first round of Yankee Swap/ Dirty Santa / White Elephant or start the game right away with everyone randomly picking a gift. Then, roll a dice or pick a random piece from the printable to decide how the gift should be swapped.
This Christmas, we suggest you to read also:
– What to Write in a Christmas card? 10 Sweet and Silly Messages.
– 20 Special Christmas Mugs Gift Ideas
– Christmas Gifts: 10 Most-Wanted Beauty Gifts For Her 2019
Enjoy your gift exchange and have a fun and memorable Christmas party this year!