Ideas for Hosting a Social Distancing Gift Exchange during Coronavirus

We are celebrating our second Christmas with coronavirus still around, the good news is that the virus is not as dominant as last year and millions of people are now vaccinated, so we expect more gift exchanges will happen this year.

If there is a coronavirus surge in your area or if you are concerned about hosting an event this year, we have some ideas so you can pull off a safe gift exchange with social distancing.

If you or your friends want to host a gift exchange or any gathering, it is of utmost important to be safe and take all the necessary precautions to keep you and your guests safe. The last thing you want to do is make your Christmas party a coronavirus super spreader event.

Please understand that based on coronavirus infection rates in your area, it may be best to cancel your gift exchange. We recommend you use the Georgia Tech coronavirus risk tool to assist you in making your decision. This tool allows you to assess the coronavirus risk for different sized events based on a county level.

Here are our social distancing tips and ideas for those who want to host a gift exchange this year.

1. Trim the Guest List
The more people in attendance at your gift exchange the more chances that at least one person will have Covid-19. So, trim your guest list to the people you know and trust. This may mean you have just 10 to 20 people, but better to be safe. (Sorry friends of friends).

You may also want to go a step further and ask if prospective guests are following generally recommended CDC best practices like avoiding large crowds, wearing masks, and washing hands often before extending an invitation. A quick check of their social media accounts will give an indication how active they are.

2. Masks and Mittens Gift Exchange
Hold a Mask and Mittens Gift Exchange where all participants must wear mask and mittens (gloves) during the Gift Exchange. Note: When we say mittens, we mean gloves but host a Mask and Gloves Gift Exchange doesn’t sound as fun.

Both Masks and Mitten will help protect everyone while gifts are being stolen or exchanged and the mittens (gloves) will make opening gifts entertaining and more challenging than normal.

Once your exchange ends allow guests to take off their gloves, and make sure you have plenty of hand sanitizer to share.

3. Have a Designated Maskless Area
If you are asking people to wear masks at your Christmas party, be sure to have a maskless area where people can eat, drink and talk without masks.

You want a large space and if possible, well ventilated area, consider an outdoor space like the back yard, porch, or a screen in space. Indoor spaces that can work well are large rooms and the garage (you can have the door open).


4. The Gifts are Stationary and the Guests Move
Whether you are doing a gift exchange or a left right story game, make the gifts stationary and have the guests move or trade places.

This requires some planning and space (large room) to safely place all the gifts.

Before you would start your gift exchange or story, you would need to set up chairs or mark spots on the floor with masking tape that are social distant and then place the gifts on the chair or marks.

Then as play begins, guests select a chair and open the gift if it is unopened or take the chair where the gift is as a way to steal the present at that location.

If playing a Left Right game, players would move from left or right from one chair to another as the story is read.

The goal of keeping the gifts stationary is that you don’t have lots of people touching gifts and getting right in front of some to steal gifts. This should help reduce spreading of germs and keep everyone healthy.

Once you reach the end of your gift exchange, everyone can then pick up the gift that is on their chair. This limits the touching of the present to the person who brought it and the person who leaves with it.

5. Zoom Gift Card and/or Lottery Ticket Exchange
Want you have a gift exchange, but not in person? And you don’t want to pay shipping costs that could be more than gift, then consider a Zoom Gift Card and/or Lottery Gift Exchange.

Ask guests to purchase a specific amount of either a gift card and/or lottery tickets and have guests place in a box or envelope so that people don’t know what they brought. Each attendee should have pen and paper as well for the event. Then set up a Zoom meeting to host a virtual gift exchange.

Randomly choose the picking order (Names A-Z, Order people joined the meeting, randomly pick out of hat. Play your normal Dirty Santa or Gift Exchange rules, with selecting a gift and steals if applicable.

Since this is a virtual gift exchange, once someone claims a gift. The person with that gift, needs to unwrap the gift and write down on the paper who claimed it. This way guests can track steals and see who has what presents and whether items are still up for grabs.

Once your Zoom Gift Exchange is over, guests will need to exchange mailing addresses and then mail the gift cards and/or lottery tickets.

This is definitely the safest way to do a gift exchange, but it lacks create gift options.

Note: You can also do gifts if you want but based on past experiences, sometimes people end up with gifts they don’t want, especially if it is a white elephant or a recycled gift theme. So gift cards and lottery tickets work well because you can easily mail them.

6. Zoom Charity Gift Gathering
Turn the money that you would spend on the gift exchange into helping a great cause this year. Here is how you can do it.

Reach out to your friends and ask if they want to do a Zoom Charity Gift Gathering, where the allocated gift amount whether $10, $20 or whatever would be donated to one person’s selected charity. Each person who wants to participate selects a charity prior to the call.

Then on the call the host can ask trivia questions, (We would use something like our Christmas Elimination game or our various Christmas trivia games) and if answered correctly their charity remains in the running and if they are incorrect, they are out of the game. Play until you have a winner and then that person’s charity is where everyone donates their funds.

The nice thing is just 10 people giving $20 is $200, and that is a nice donation for any charity.

Final note on Gift Exchanges in 2020
This year is like no other and while we want our Christmas parties and gift exchanges to be normal, Covid-19 is making that difficult.

Each office and group of friends needs to decide what works for them and if you do decide to host a holiday gift exchange, please use caution and feel free to use the ideas we mentioned.

If you have helpful social distancing gift exchange ideas, let us know what they are and we can add them to our list.
Happy Holidays, take care and be safe.

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Social Distancing Gift Exchange Ideas for Christmas Parties
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