Chinese Christmas Exchange

Sometimes known as the Chinese Gift Exchange, here is a game that we've expanded and adapted to include as many different cultures as possible. The gifts that are exchanged are chosen to represent a country or its culture, either one that is part of each guest's heredity, or as gifts that represent a region of the world. There can be many variations to this game! Use this outline to start your own tradition of bringing more cultures into your Christmas gathering, learning about other peoples' traditions around Christmas, trying their food and listening to the Christmas music of other countries.

Christmas is celebrated in different ways in different countries of the world. Not every country or culture celebrates Christmas in the same way as North Americans, with the tales of Santa Claus and the North Pole, decorated evergreen trees, stockings stuffed with small goodies and presents galore. For many throughout the world, Christmas is a deeply religious holiday with celebrations and family gatherings occurring in the weeks leading up to or following the actual date of December 25. For many cultures, these gatherings are more about food and family time than it is about gifts, although gift-giving is becoming more and more prevalent throughout the world at this time of year. Traditions range from fireworks to chocolate, from special foods to candies. Adding any of these elements to your gift exchange gathering will broaden the knowledge of the guests in attendance and definitely generate some unique gift-buying.

If you have a crowd that is interested in the lives and cultures of other people's countries, then the Cultural Christmas Gift Exchange will work well with your group. Organized in the same way as the White Elephant Gift Exchange, every guest arrives with a wrapped gift and everyone leaves with an unwrapped gift. In between, all sorts of exchanging goes on and this can be done in a number of ways, as we explain in our Rules section of this article. As in other gift exchanges, the Cultural Christmas Gift Exchange works well for gatherings of extended family, community groups, teammates, office colleagues and any volunteer organizations that guests may work together on.

Gift Exchanges Around the World

While most North Americans and northern European nations are used to a 'white Christmas', that means lots and lots of snow and cold temperatures. There is a whole yuletide mythology that has grown up surrounding the ice, snow and Christmas time. Picture the images we have of Santa Claus, flying through the air on his sleigh, the vehicle itself is meant to land on snow! The North Pole is covered in ice and snow, and according to this tradition, that is where the elves toil all year making the toys and gifts for children all over the world.

What about the parts of our world that have no snow, where the seasons switch to the opposite hemisphere, like Australia who experiences the heat of summer on December 25th? Take into consideration those permanently tropical countries where snow is unheard of, along with those European countries where religious observance is paramount. Also, with different religions populating different areas of the world, not all people celebrate Christmas in the same way. The Cultural Christmas Gift Exchange will require some research on behalf of both the organizer and guests in terms of what kinds of gifts everyone will purchase, what menu decisions will be made in terms of what to serve guests and perhaps even the creation of music playlists that reflect the different cultures that are being represented.

Tropical Countries

Christmas in Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina or Southeast Asia is hot, and many of these tropical countries are have deeply religious traditions surrounding Christmas and the date of December 25. Some tropical countries celebrate this tradition before December 25 and some even celebrate in January. What is common to all of these countries, and many more, is family and food. Almost all cultures at this time of year celebrate this date either on Christmas Eve, December 24, or the following day and almost always it is a family gathering with a big feast held out of doors, in a public park, on a beach or at a holiday home. Usually there are fireworks and usually families attend a Church service together, or sing Christmas carols from not only their own country's history, but from others as well. In some tropical climes, Christmas is a time for repairing homes, upgrading appliances, purchasing new decor as preparation to welcome guests to their home. For some poorer countries, gift giving does not occur at all, but families do find the money to purchase new clothes for the day as they gather for a traditional meal.

Northern Climates

In northern countries across the globe, not all cultures have Santa Claus and gift giving, but place an emphasis on gathering with friends and family for a great meal. More and more however, some of these northern cultures are exchanging small gifts, but not the plethora we see in North America. In many northern countries, the spiritual aspect of the day is still the primary focus, where they attend a religious service or procession, share food with family and friends, set off fireworks and exchange small gifts.

The Game

All cultures are aware of this significant time of year, no matter how they celebrate it. You can use "Cultural Christmas" as the theme of your Gift Exchange, complete with food and music if you so choose to represent the different cultures that will be included in your gift exchange.

The goal of this game is to entertain your group, to have everyone bring a wrapped gift that represents a world culture, to participate in a fun exchange with each other and to leave your gathering with a unique, culturally-representative gift. Read on to find out How to Organize your own Cultural Christmas Gift Exchange.