The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Health & Family

December 6, 2012

Christmas on the cheap: Exchange game helps Santas on a budget

JOPLIN, Mo. — It never fails: Just when someone thinks he has holiday gift-giving under control, and manages to keep the lights and heat on throughout the month, along comes an office party, or youth group party, or something else that strains the budget.

Buying presents can add stress to an already tense time of year, especially in a down economy. But there are plenty of ways to have holiday fun while going easy on the wallet.

Guests and planners alike will appreciate some of these ideas from Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore, of, who also recommend that Dirty Santa is a brilliant way to organize these exchanges.

The rules

Also known as "White Elephant," "Greedfest," "Yankee Swap" or "Parcel Pass," the idea behind Dirty Santa is entertainment, not getting a good gift --Êthus removing the stress of shelling out for an awesome present.

According to, the rules for the exchange are simple. Assume you have 10 players, each of whom have brought a gift to exchange:

  • Everyone draws random numbers to determine the order of play.
  • No. 1 chooses a gift and opens it, showing it to everyone.
  • No. 2 can either take the gift from No. 1 or open a gift from the pile. If No. 1's gift is taken, then No. 1 opens a new gift from the pile.
  • No. 3 and every other player can either take any gift already opened, or open a new gift from the pile of presents. Whomever has a gift stolen from him gets to open a new gift from the pile, or steal an already opened gift.

There are some variations, such as No. 1 getting the final pick of gifts (which means that No. 2 gets the shaft) or if a gift is chosen three times it is retired. Whatever variations are used should be explained at the beginning, before the first gift is exchanged.

As for the types of gifts to plug into that game, Welch and Rockmore have plenty of ideas.

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