White Elephant vs Secret Santa – The Ultimate Gift Exchange Game


Holiday parties are looking quite different this year, but just because we’re social distancing doesn’t mean gift exchange games get the boot. The biggest problem you might face is which game to choose. The showdown contenders for the best gift exchange game have always been White Elephant vs Secret Santa(in our opinion). 

Can’t decide which one? You don’t have to! Dress up in your holiday gear, get hot chocolate crazy and play both! With safety in mind, here’s the ultimate guide on how to play and enjoy our two favorite holiday games. 

How To Play White Elephant

Also known as yankee swap or dirty santa, White Elephant is simple, fun and often hilariously weird. There’s no need to pick names for this one because the gifts are chosen at random. We are going to give you the details of how to play it in person. Keep in mind, this version is meant to be played with your household members only to keep everyone safe. Here’s how to start.  

First, place all the gifts in the center of the room and vote for one person to start the game (our vote is youngest first!). Starting with them, they chose a gift from the pile. 

Once that first person has a gift, each person takes a turn choosing to open a new gift or steal a gift from someone who’s already opened their gift. If someone steals your gift, you can pick a new wrapped gift or steal one for yourself. 

Remember, each gift can only be stolen 3 times and each person can only be stolen from 3 times. This continues back and forth until someone unwraps the final gift without stealing and everyone leaves happy (or confused) with their special gift! 

Setting a cap for the amount spent on the gifts and keep it appropriate if there’s kids involved. While some participants will buy really awesome gifts that you can’t wait to steal from someone – while others might opt for quirky weird things that no one wants, but it makes for plenty of laughs. 

Don’t be surprised if there’s a regifted item in there from previous family Christmas!

Virtual Fun

Don’t let coronavirus restrictions keep your extended family excluded from White Elephant this year. Use sites like White Elephant Online to help you host a free virtual White Elephant gift exchange with your loved ones. Choose a gift from any website and upload your choice onto the site. The present will show up like a gift box icon until someone virtually unwraps it. From there you can play the game as usual. After the game ends, you purchase your gift you submitted and send it on it’s way to the lucky recipient! 

10 White Elephant Gifts Under $30

White Elephant gifts can be funny, practical or unassuming (something tiny wrapped in a huge box). To make the most of your experience, pick something that anyone can enjoy or get a kick out of. 

If you need some help choosing a gift, take a look at our suggestions that the whole crew will love!

How To Play Secret Santa 

The rules for Secret Santa haven’t changed much, except this year making sure if you’re playing in person it’s with your household loved ones. We’ll give you tips later on how to play when you’re practicing social distancing or playing virtually with anyone outside of your immediate family or household. Let’s get started! 

Playing Secret Santa is tons of fun and quite a thrill waiting to find out who’s going to be gifting you. To start, have each participant write down their Christmas list and share that list with everyone. Then write down all participants’ names individually on a piece of paper and toss them into a hat. Each person playing will pick a name out of the hat for their Secret Santa – no peeking! 

Kids love this game and it’s a great way for them to select the perfect gift for someone they love. Secret Santa is simple and loads of fun! 

Tip: Picking a cap dollar amount to be spent might be a good idea. That way nobody feels slighted if they see someone else get a bigger, better or more expensive gift. Keep it an even playing field and everyone will be happy! 

Separate, But Together

Create memories together, virtually! With sites like Elfster, you can invite the whole family near and far to participate in Secret Santa. First, make sure all participants create their gift list and share with everyone playing. Elfster can help you create a list that allows you to upload your gift list from any site. Then, use their secret Santa name generator and names will be discreetly shared.

Once you know your Secret Santa, be sure that everyone sends out the gifts on time so you can open presents together on Zoom or google meet up. 

Make it fun! Pick a theme, enjoy holiday food, dress up and enjoy lasting memories. 

10 Secret Santa Gifts Under $30

From toddlers to grandma, we’ve compiled a list of gifts that anyone is sure to love. When you purchase White Elephant or Secret Santa gifts using MoneyLion’s cashback rewards, you’ll earn 2% cashback in December from Etsy, Bath and Body Works, Best Buy and Macy’s. 

On a smaller budget? Check out these awesome gifts under $10!

Use Instacash for Your Last Minute Gift Exchange Presents

Whichever game you end up playing with your loved ones (we say both!), don’t miss out on the fun because your payday isn’t until Friday. 

Use an Instacash advance from MoneyLion and get up to $250 without hurting your credit.

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