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Guests bring a wrapped, unmarked gift and are assigned numbers. Person number one picks and opens a gift. Person number two opens a second gift, and decides whether to keep it or swap it for the first player’s gift. And so on.
2. Victorian tangle
Friends buy gifts and gather together. Each person ties a very long piece of coloured yarn to the gift they bring. Participants go all over the house, tying string throughout, often overlapping over banisters and under chairs. After guests are assigned a yarn colour, they follow their yarn to find a gift. Best done before cocktails.
3. Eco elegant party
Everyone buys something from a second-hand store and personalizes it for the recipient. That can mean anything, from spray painting an old tea set to creating an eclectic centrepiece to sewing hand towels out of a good quality but worn-in-spots linen tablecloth.
4. Time trade
Each member of the group goes online and buys a voucher for a service – it could be two hours of massage, a pedicure, a gift certificate for a movie or maybe dinner out. Swap "gifts" over a potluck dinner to further lighten the workload.
5. Holiday trivia
Participants answer holiday-related questions. (Who played the little girl in the original Miracle on 34th Street?) The winner for each round picks a gift, which can be wrapped or unwrapped. This game can be highly conversational, spun out endlessly over drinks and nibbles. A "moderator" gets the last gift standing, which may or may not be a good thing.
We have lots more tips on how to have a fun and affordable Christmas gift exchange. Plus the seven dos and don'ts of gift giving.