Christmas Party Rules And Gift Ideas

In the Christian tradition, Christmas is a time of gift giving. This tradition has arisen out of the biblical story of the three wise men arriving at the stable with gifts in hand, gold, frankincense and myrrh, to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Today's gift giving symbolizes the three wise men's gesture. But an even older pagan tradition known as Saturnalia occurred in the Roman times. This was a week-long winter celebration that included gift giving and exchanging.

How did the pagan tradition of Saturnalia change into what we today know as Christmas? Lore has it that early Christian leaders wanted pagan festivities replaced with more Christian celebrations. And so they decided that this feast of Saturnalia, which included gift-giving, would be changed to celebrate Jesus' birth and be called Christmas.

This tradition quickly spread throughout Christian countries. By the time the pilgrims landed in America in the early 1600s, these leaders had decided to ban this tradition. But by 1700, Christmas had been made legal in America again. One hundred years later, in the 1800s, the commercialization of gift-giving at Christmas had begun.

Gift Exchanges

With the expense that the growing popularity of gift giving now entailed, it is in the mid-1800s that we see gift-exchanges start to appear, where social gatherings are organized and each guest brings one gift to exchange with the group, thereby reducing the expense and adding some fun to these seasonal gatherings.

As we've written about, there are many different types of gift exchanges occurring around the world. These gatherings have been given different names such as The White Elephant Exchange, Secret Santa, Yankee Swap, The Pollyanna Gift Exchange, and new here, The Cultural Christmas Gift Exchange. All of them have a few things in common. These gift exchange parties:

  • entertain a large group of people during the Christmas season;
  • enables everyone to bring a gift and leave with a gift;
  • are an affordable option for group gift-giving with hundreds of gift themes available;
  • and they provide an opportunity for lots of laughter and interaction, sometimes very boisterous, ensuring that this style of Christmas party will be a hit amongst all participants.

A gift-exchange party is perfect for any large group gathering, particularly amongst those people who may not know each other well. It is also great for large family gatherings, particularly when the adults might already own everything they need.

Probably the most important rule in participating in a gift exchange is in regards to the purchasing of gifts. The basis of these gift exchanges during the Christmas season, from Secret Santa to the Cultural Christmas Exchange, is to purchase a gift that everyone will want. The foundation of these games are to have people stealing gifts from one another in an orderly fashion, and the only way the organizer will have lots of stealing, is if participants buy gifts that the majority of players will want.

Organizing a Gift Exchange

Whether you decide to organize a gift exchange by yourself or with a partner, it is not hard, and once set up, will not take up a lot of your time. The ideal group size for a gift exchange is about 20 people, resulting in a game that will last about an hour. If you have a larger group of people, you can split the group in half and each group participates in their own circle, all while in the same room.

For most of these gift exchanges, the first thing to do is decide on a date, time and place. The location of your gift exchange should have space enough for your group to sit around in a circle, with a clear space or table in the middle where all of the gifts will be piled. This can work well in your home, but also a team's change room, a workplace board room or lunch room, a classroom in a school, the gymnasium with everyone seated on the floor. We would not recommend the public seating area of a restaurant unless you've rented your own area for this particular type of gathering.

The next step is to decide on a price range for gift purchasing, and usually a $20-$30 limit will suffice. Along with your price range for purchases, decide on a theme as well. Having someone help you with this part can make it easier, it will help excite and inspire your participants. With each gift exchange described here, we offer a selection of themes and gift ideas. Don't forget to take a look, and feel free to use one of these or be inspired by them to come up with your own best suitable to your group.

Once you've established all of this, next you will invite people, with a request for each person to RSVP to you, to let you know whether the invitee is attending or not. This is particularly important for a Secret Santa Gift Exchange, where the organizer matches up participants so that they can secretly place gifts on their partner's desk or personal area. All of the other gift exchanges require no matching of players, everyone shows up at the appointed place and time, puts their gift in the center, and waits for the organizer to begin. Easy!

Above all, don't be afraid to start your own Christmas tradition amongst your community group, team, office colleagues or volunteer group. Everyone will appreciate the effort, and all players will leave full of good Christmas cheer, and with a gift!