Whether you call this holiday party gift exchange the Yankee Swap, a Pollyanna Swap, The Thieving Secret Santa Swap, The Scottish Gift Exchange, or The White Elephant Exchange the basic rules are the same.
The Yankee Swap rules are very simple but they must be followed to the letter to ensure that this unfair game is played as fairly as possible.
Simple Yankee Swap Rules
- Prior to the holiday party a price range should be decided upon giving the participants and idea of what they should be spending on their gift
- Anyone who is participating should bring a wrapped gift that is not marked with a to and from
- Each participant must pick a number out of a hat/bowl – anything that keeps people from seeing which number they are choosing
- Players take turns based on the number they chose. Turns go in ascending order.
- Player #1 gets to swap their gift at the very end of the game when all of the other players have opened and swapped their gifts.
- Each person must completely unwrap the gift they chose
- All swaps must be completed during your designated turn
- No one may leave with their gift before the game ends – if you have to leave…your gift stays
The official Yankee Swap rules are pretty straightforward and can be easily followed. However, there are a few variations of how the Yankee Swap can be played:
Variations to the Yankee Swap Rules
- First Come First Serve Numbers – This works well when when the host knows exactly how many Yankee Swap participants there will be prior to the party. The first guest to arrive would be awarded the #1 spot and then the next to arrive would be given the highest number. You work your way back until the last guest to arrive is given the #2 spot (the crappiest number).
- End of The Game Unveiling – In this variation of the Yankee Swap, all gifts must be securely wrapped and are not to be opened throughout the entire game. This forces people to blindly swap gifts based on the wrapping and package size. Once everyone has picked their gifts and finished their swapping everyone unwraps their gifts at the same time.
- The Dead Gift – In this version of the Yankee Swap you have an agreed upon number of times that one gift can be stolen. Once that number has been reached that gift becomes a dead gift meaning that it can no longer be stolen in the game.
- The White Elephant – In the White Elephant version of the Yankee Swap all gifts are wrapped in wrapping paper that is inside out. This means that the colored side of the paper is not visible and all gifts look to be wrapped in white, hence the white elephant
- Yankee Swap With A Theme – the host or hostess can declare that everyone participating in the Yankee Swap must bring a gift that has a certain theme to it
So as you see, it doesn’t matter if you call your gift exchange a Yankee Swap, Pollyanna Swap, Dirty Santa, Thieving Secret Santa or even the White Elephant the rules are pretty much the same.
Yankee Swap Tips to Win
- Always buy something that you want – there is a good chance that you could end up with your own gift…shop accordingly. Make sure what you purchase for the Yankee Swap is something that you wouldn’t mind walking out of there with.
- Be shrewd – If you see a gift that you want…take it. I don’t care if you are taking a gift away from your grandmother that she absolutely loves…take it. She would do it to you BELIEVE ME.
- Be a loud mouth and point out to everything else how awesome that other gift someone else has so no one will pay attention to the one you already have and want to keep. Otherwise sit low and out of the way so no one will see what you have unless someone asks to hold up all the gifts. Then just don’t hold it up too high. Got it?
If you have never participated in a Yankee Swap type of gift exchange you should suggest it for your family’s holiday party this year. When played by the rules this is fun way of giving and receiving gifts.