23 Fun Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas and Themes

From a classic Yankee Swap to some truly out-of-the-box ideas, make your gift exchange one to remember this year.

Updated October 15, 2019
Two women having a Christmas gift exchange

It's easy to get into a gift exchange rut. Liven up your Christmas festivities through some fun and unique gift exchange ideas for family, coworkers and kids. Not only will they have a great time and get a gift, but they will make a great memory. And who knows, it might turn into the new holiday tradition.

Yankee Swap Theme Ideas

Yankee swap takes secret Santa to the next level. In a Yankee swap, you'll do a completely blind gift exchange. Not only will you not know who bought the gift, but you never know whose gift you're going to get. Pick a random gift and choose to keep it or swap it with someone else's gift based on your number. Each different swap uses slightly different rules, but there are a few themes you can add to create a unique twist to your gift swap event.

ABCs and 123s

Pick a random letter of the alphabet or number. Each person needs to buy a present for the exchange that starts with the letter or features the number in its name.

Lost and Found

What weird items do people find in lost and found boxes? This gag theme is perfect for ridding yourself of broken sunglasses, half-empty bottles of soda and mittens without their match.


Each gift should relate back to a childhood memory that the giver has of the recipient. From homemade cookies and a rolling pin to a shiny new sled, be sure that everyone tells the memories behind the gift.

Family opening Christmas gifts

Something _____

This game can be as funny or naughty as you choose. Simply fill in the blank to let the hilarity begin. You might have your guests bring 'Something to hang in your Livingroom' to 'Something you pour.' Make this as adult or PG as you choose.

Keep It Simple With Large Group Gift Exchange

When you are doing a gift exchange with a large group, it is best to keep the gift giving simple. Not only do you have a lot of people to think about, most of the time, you might not be that close with them. Save yourself some heartache by using these simple themes.

Recipe Jar

Everyone has that one recipe that everyone loves. It could be a cookie recipe or even your taco casserole. Share your recipe with your family or coworkers through this fun jar idea. Using a mason jar, either add the ingredients and a lid or make a mason jar craft. Tie your recipe on the outside like a tag and exchange.

Practical Presents

Frugal friends, coworkers and family will enjoy getting gifts that can be put to good use indoors or out. You might choose to give cleaning supplies or a potted plant. Not only are they practical, but you don't have to know a person really well to find the perfect gift.

All In One

Depending on the size of your group and budget, gifting can get pretty expensive. Rather than worrying about the gift, make it a family affair. Give a family experience like a night at the movies or museum visit. Not only will they have fun, but the family is together for the holidays.

Mug Exchange

Everyone loves a good mug. Really add the pop to this mug exchange by making it a contest to find the most unique or hilarious mug. From mugs with sayings to pictures, absurd is the name of the game. Every time you sip your coffee or tea; you'll definitely remember this event with a smile.

Surprising Small Group Gift Exchange Ideas

Small groups are more intimate. Surprising your friends or coworkers with your gift exchange can be difficult. Rather than make this a secret Santa, turn it into a gift exchange game to keep the curiosity peeked.

Christmas Song Pass

It's a bit like musical chairs with a fun and interesting twist. Choose several Christmas songs with popular Christmas words like Santa, Christmas, bells, etc. Give everyone a present and start the song. Everyone should start passing the presents clockwise, as soon as they hear one of the words, they need to switch to counterclockwise. They should alternate between clockwise and counterclockwise with every new word sung until the song ends. Now open!

Finish That Christmas Carol

Take the Christmas pass to the next level and you have finish the Christmas carol. Start passing around a gift and play a popular or unpopular Christmas carol. When you stop the music, the person holding the gift has to finish the carol in order to open their gift. If they can't finish the carol, the next person in the line can steal.

Guess the Giver

This is a great game for friends or family that is pretty close. Wrap your gift with your own unique touch. It should say something about you but not be obvious. All the gifts should be brought in brown bags and given a number. Everyone at the party should be given a corresponding number. Starting with 1, they need to try to guess the giver. If they fail, 2 can try to steal or guess the giver of their gift and so on.

Get Crafty

This idea takes homemade gifts to the next level, going from cookies and cakes to crafts. From a Christmas ornament to a knit scarf, the gift can be anything as long as the giver made it themselves. And it can't be something you eat. Gifts from the heart mean the most, right?

Make It Fun for Kids

When it comes to gift exchange themes for kids, you want to keep it fun and simple. Therefore, making it a simple game of chance or treasure hunt can really jazz up their exchange more than just drawing names. Gift a few of these fun themes to the kids at your party.

Spin the Candy Cane

This is similar to spin the bottle but with a candy cane and presents. Kids will spin the candy cane. Whoever it lands on will exchange presents with the spinner, everyone should get a chance to exchange presents at least once. Keep spinning until everyone has a unique present and open.

Treasure Hunt

This will take a bit of prep work but is super fun for kids. You will need to create clues and hiding spots for presents in the house or yard. Each kid will get a set of clues to find the presents. They play until everyone has collected one present.

Present Wars

Kids love the chance to steal presents, especially when it comes to siblings, bring on present wars. Every kid gets a number starting with 1. Number 1 chooses a present and opens it. Number 2 can steal 1's present or choose a new present to open. This is a game where being last is awesome because the last person can keep their present or steal any of the other presents available.

Themed Gift Exchange for Coworkers

Themes for coworkers can get bland, especially if you've worked at a company for a while. Keep your secret Santa lively with these unique gift ideas.

Friends Christmas Party Gift Exchange

Pop Culture

Everyone chooses a present that reflects a part of today's pop culture. Not only can this lead to some really unique presents but marks the occasion.


Each present must relate back to a news story from the past year. Include a copy of the story that inspired the gift.

Go Green

Gifts exchanged can be organic, made from recyclable materials or eco-friendly. You can also include energy saving gifts as well.

Charitable Causes

Purchase gifts that send a portion of the profits to charities around the world. Share not only the gifts but the charity with your coworker.

Pet-tacular Presents

If everyone in the group has a pet, give gifts like collars, treats and animal collectibles to the person you get. Not only will they, but their fur babies will also enjoy the new gift.

Secret Santa Themes for Family

Sometimes, your family are the hardest people to buy for. They might have everything, or they just don't give you an idea of what they want. Add a bit of peppermint to your holiday fun by adding a distinctive holiday theme that might be out of this world.

Celebrate Fandom

Do you have a Harry Potter lover or a Trekkie? Find a gift that can fulfill all their fandom wishes. It might be those Gryffindor Vans or a Grey's Anatomy bracelet. It doesn't have to be expensive either. An Eeyore shirt or Nightmare Before Christmas flannel pants will suffice.

Keep It Christmas

From ornaments to lights, keep your gift centered around Christmas. Think outside of the box here. Maybe your gift is to take them to the Christmas festival or a handmade ornament. It could even be a Santa coupon. The gifting ideas are endless.

Sock Exchange

This one is fun because the opportunities are only limited by your imagination. The idea is to only buy what you can fit into a fun holiday sock. You might get candy or even a pair of earrings. Regardless, they will get an awesome new pair of Christmas socks.

Have Fun with It

Almost anything can be turned into a party gift exchange theme. Your only limit is budget and imagination, although it may be a challenge to get family and friends to agree to a wacky theme!

23 Fun Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas and Themes