Our friend Kathy A. highly recommends Yankee Swaps as a fun way to exchange duplicate presents, or practically anything in your house that has outlived its usefulness. Don’t expect to clean out your closets, but do expect to be highly entertained. While these “swap” parties are often given after the holidays, they can be fun any time of year. We always have a collection of extra gifts and other items we just don’t know what to do with.
Yankee Swaps are also known as White Elephant Exchanges. Items are generally inexpensive and can also be humorous.
There should be a minimum of six players, and the more the merrier. We know of “swap” parties of 35 – 40 guests.
How to play:
Upon arrival at the party, each guest contributes a wrapped, unmarked present and places it in the pile. Each guest is given a number, or their numbers can be randomly drawn from a hat. The guest with #1 goes first and chooses a present (not their own). from the pile. He unwraps it and shows it, reads it, models it or demos it, whatever is appropriate to the gift.
Each successive participant, in numerical order, can decide to either “steal” an already opened gift if there’s one they really like, or choose an unwrapped one from the pile. If a participant chooses to “steal”, the person whose gift is stolen repeats his turn, and can either “steal” someone else’s gift (he can’t “re-steal” the present just stolen from him) or choose a new one.
Since items can be “stolen” the present in your possession isn’t yours until the game is over. Items can be declared “safe” however, if they’ve been stolen 3 times. This also helps the game move forward.
The game is over once all the participants have had a turn and all the presents in the pile have been opened.
In some versions of the game, each player after player #1 opens a new present and then decides to either keep it or “steal” someone else’s.
After all the gifts have been chosen or swapped, player #1 has the option of swapping gifts with someone else.
Sometimes gifts are tied to a theme, like “kitchen utensils”, “music” or “gardening” for example.