How to Draw Names for Christmas Gifts: Ideas & Generator

Make your gift exchange super simple this year by taking the guesswork out of drawing names.

Updated August 19, 2019
Exchanging Christmas Gifts

Drawing names for Christmas gifts helps groups avoid the expense and hassle of getting individual gifts for each person. Use the quick gift exchange generator below to help you set gift pairings for a group, or try some more hands-on ways to pair up people for a gift exchange.

Let the Widget Do the Work

With this handy widget, your gift pairing is made easy. Simply input all the names in your group, separated by a comma, and click on "create list." The widget will randomly pair up people to evenly distribute a gift for each person.

Secret Santa Gift Exchange

With a secret Santa gift exchange, people typically don't know who their gift-giver is. Often, this type of gift exchange involves small, surprise gifts throughout the holiday season, but this format can also be used for one gift at a party or gathering. The identity of the gift-giver is revealed when the final gift is given. Draw names using the widget, or if you want it to where not one person knows who all the pairs are, try an online anonymous generator like Elfster. It's a good idea, however, to have at least one person in charge who knows the pairings to ensure everyone participates as agreed.

Secret Santa Present

Organizing a Christmas Gift Name Drawing

Organizing a name drawing can be complicated if your family or group hasn't done it before or if you want to switch the rules up a little bit. Names should be drawn well in advance of Christmas and with as many people available to choose their recipient. For many families, this is done at the Thanksgiving celebration, with another family member standing in for those who cannot attend.

Divide the Drawing

The next thing to decide is how to host the actual drawing. Is everyone's name going to be thrown in a hat or bowl together, or will you divide the family up into groups? Common groupings in the Christmas gift drawing include:

  • Men, women, teens under 18 and children under 10 in their own drawings
  • Age groups for everyone
  • Families draw family names out (for example, a brother and his family might draw his sister's name and her family)
  • For workplace drawings, decide whether departments will be separated or if it will be a company-wide drawing.

Secret Drawing or Not

Once names have been drawn, decide whether the names selected should be kept secret. Both telling and keeping the secret have pros and cons. Telling who you drew can allow you to get better gift ideas, but also might ruin some of the fun for others. Decide as a group and then appoint one person to keep a master list, no matter what the decision.

Final Rules

Finally, set out a few final rules for everyone. A commonality among Christmas gift name drawings is the setting of a price limit. This is usually a dollar range, such as $15-$30, that everyone should aim to spend on the person they drew. This helps keep things fair. Other rules might include:

  • Setting a theme
  • Deciding that gift cards aren't allowed
  • Choosing to have everyone make homemade Christmas gifts instead of purchasing them

Drawing Ideas

While drawing names out of a hat or bowl is a simple and effective way to draw names for a Christmas gift exchange, there are other ways to draw names that can get everyone in the gift-giving mood.

Pin the Tail on the Gift

A fun game that will get the holiday season started right, this method is suitable for exchanges where the participants aren't anonymous.

  1. Using a posterboard placed on the wall, write the name of each person participating in the exchange.
  2. Choose the first person to play. Blindfolded, they should be spun around a couple times and then led to the posterboard.
  3. The person then "pins the tail" (or puts a sticky note) somewhere on the board. Whichever name it lands closest to is the person they buy a gift for.

Gift Tree

If you want to allow participants to choose who they partner with while also getting everyone into the holiday spirit, a gift tree can be a good idea.

  1. Place a Christmas tree in a common area (maybe the break room for a workplace or the entryway for a family gathering). On the branches, hang "ornaments" made out of paper featuring one name per ornament. On the back of the ornament can be items the recipient would enjoy.
  2. Allow participants to peruse the tree and grab one ornament. Depending on the personality of your group, this could be a mad dash with everyone or a calm perusal one at a time.
Handcrafted christmas balls

The Santa Assignment

Dressed as Santa, an elf, reindeer, or even just wearing a holiday hat, enter the room with a bag full of participants' names. This is a variation of pulling names out of a bag that takes the moment to a more festive level.

  1. Allow each person to choose a name from the bag - this is the person they buy gifts for.
  2. If your goal is to get everyone into the holiday spirit, "Santa" can hand out candy canes or even toss confetti after each selection.

Consider Participant Preferences

Every family has their own traditions regarding gift exchanges and drawing names, so be sure to check with everyone before you switch things up as far as the dollar amount or how to divide up the families' names. This way no one feels left out or pressured to participate.

How to Draw Names for Christmas Gifts: Ideas & Generator