The ultimate gift exchange game for large groups

Lying awake the night before a big event is sometimes when I get my best ideas. Last Wednesday night, for example, I was pondering how to facilitate a fun, interactive gift exchange game that would encourage people to get to know each other (Seattle freeze be damned) but not interrupt the natural flow of the event.

The beautiful bedroom in the penthouse of Hotel Theodore in Seattle.

As part of my job as public relations manager at my company, I had 30 guests coming to a decked-out penthouse in downtown Seattle for a holiday gifting event. Everything was in place but how we would run the gift exchange, which featured gifts provided by my company. Then, it came to me: A holiday-themed word game where you have to find the person who has the other word. I know that sounds confusing. Stay with me.

The perfect spot for a holiday event.

Here is how it worked:

  • Upon arrival, each guest drew a piece of paper with a word on it out of a shiny copper bowl.
  • The word they drew was half of a two-word holiday phrase. Example: Jingle (missing word “Bells”) or Holly (missing word “Jolly”)
  • Throughout the night, they needed to find the person who had the word that would complete the holiday phrase.
  • When they found their partner, they would bring it to my attention and I would excitedly ring jingle bells and announce that we had a match. This part was hilariously awkward and fun for me.
  • We would gather at the tree and both people would pick a present.
  • They would then exchange the present (tricky, right?) and open it up.

The happy hostess — me 😊

It worked! Guests interacted with people they didn’t already know, had fun figuring out what phrase they had, and of course they loved getting a present. I was so happy to get positive feedback on my 11th-hour gift exchange game idea and see it unfold with such success.

Want to try this at your own holiday party? Here are the phrases:

  • Jingle bells
  • Holly jolly
  • Christmas tree
  • Figgy pudding
  • Wish list
  • Happy holidays
  • Seasons greetings
  • Gingerbread house
  • Candy cane
  • Santa Claus
  • North Pole
  • Naughty nice
  • Merry bright
  • Winter wonderland
  • Sleigh ride

Happy holidays!


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