Yankee Swap Gift Exchange
Supplies: Wrapped gifts, budget limit, paper and pen
How the term Yankee Swap got applied to a holiday gift exchange game is unclear as the term relates to the trade of prisoners between Confederate and Union forces during the Civil War. We suspect that the term was casually used during and then after the war to describe gift giving between families that had relatives that lived in the Yankee North and in the Confederate, South.
A Yankee Swap Gift Exchange has some similarities to a Dirty Santa Gift Grab, however it also has some unique traits that make the Yankee Swap different. One of the main differences is that gifts are Swapped rather than Stolen during the game. It quickens the pace of the game and makes it a little less chaotic.
Popular Yankee Swap Themes:
1. Gag Gifts
2. Recycled Gifts (Gifts the giver has received but never used)
3. And Regular Gifts like Gift Cards, Wine, Gadgets
You might also consider themes like Toys, Food & Beverages, Christmas Movies or Cartoons, Red and White, Gifts that reference a Christmas Carol or Christmas story. Remember you don’t need a theme for your Yankee Swap but it does add to the fun.
Rules & How to Organize a Yankee Swap
1. Send out an invitation or email letting people know that there will be a Yankee Swap Gift Exchange.
2. In this Invitation include the follow:
Gift spending limit. $10, $25 or more.
Yankee Swap Theme if you have one.
They need to know gifts should be wrapped but should not include a To / From gift tag.
3. Gifts should be brought to the party or office on the day of the event. If you work in an office have a place where gifts can be stored until your Holiday party.
4. When it is time for the Yankee Swap Gift Exchange bring out all the gifts and confirm that everyone participating has brought a gift.
5. Determining the Gift Picking Order
a. Count how many people are in the gift exchange and place that many numbers in a bowl.
So if you have 10 people you’ll use numbers 1 through 10 and more for larger groups.
b. Now going around the room and have everyone draw a number from the bowl.
c. The person with #1 goes first and the person selecting the highest number goes last.
6. Yankee Swap Gift Selection, Swapping Gifts and Keeping a Gift / Safe Gifts
a. The person with #1 goes first and selects a gift from the gift pile and unwraps the gift.
b. Then it’s #2’s turn, where they go to the gift pile, select a gift and unwrap it. Then must then decide to a. Keep their gift or b. Swap gifts with anyone else who has a gift.
– Note: That these are one for one swaps and once the swap is made it is the next persons turn.
c. Then person #3 goes and the process continues of keeping their gift or swapping with anyone who has a gift.
– In a Yankee Swap the later you go in the game the more choices you get for gifts.
Unlike a Dirty Santa where lots of gifts can be stolen, a Yankee Swap only has one swap per turn.
Keeping a Gift / Safe Gifts
In most Yankee Swaps there are no Safe Gifts, all gifts can be swapped at any time during the game.
However a popular variation that is pulled from Dirty Santa exchanges is to allow for a gift to only be swapped 3 times. The person you swaps for it on the 3rd time gets to keep the gift. You can choose either option.
9. End of the Yankee Swap Gift Exchange
a. When you get to the last person, that person must then select the last gift, unwrap it and then either keep it or swap it with someone. Once that has keep completed the Yankee Swap is over and everyone gets to keep their gift.
b. Yankee Swap Ends to Make Sure People Don’t Get Their Own Gift
Once the last person has gone and all gifts have been swapped you can ask if there is anyone who ended up with the gift that they brought?
– If there is just one person, ask for volunteer to trade gifts and that person who has their own gift can choose from all of the volunteers. If no one voluteers then a randomly draw a number out of the bowl and that person swaps gifts (unless the gift is safe).
– If there are two people with their own gift then they swap with each other.
– And if there are 3 or more people with their own gift call them out and have the first person in the line to choose a number from 1 – (one number less then the people in the line) so if there are 3 people they can choose numbers 1 or 2 and if there are 5 people with the their gift they can choose between 1 – 4. Once the first answers you left everyone know that they need to pass their gift that many times to the right and the last persons gift goes back to the first person. This is a randomly mixes up the gifts and then you are done.