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White Elephant Gift Exchange Game Directions

The White Elephant Gift Exchange rule set is one of the most common gift exchange methods used. It is similar to the Yankee Gift Exchange, but the focus is on selecting and “stealing” gifts rather than “swapping”.


Choose a gift price limit and theme of the gifts (if any) you want to have and inform all the participants. Make sure the players know they should wrap their gifts, but leave off any gift tags. Set up an area for your guests to put their gifts for the exchange, if you have a Christmas tree up, under the tree is a very festive spot.

Count how many people you have in the exchange and be sure they have all remembered to bring a gift. On slips of paper write numbers 1 – #Guests and place them in a bowl or bag (So if you have 20 people exchanging you would write the numbers 1 – 20 on 20 slips of paper). Have each player pull a number from the bowl and that is there “gift order”.

Now is time for the “gifting”. The person who drew #1 from the bowl goes first.

Taking Turns

TURN 1: Person #1 takes a gift from the pile. They then upwrap the gift and show the rest of the group what they received. Their turn ends.

TURN 2: It is now #2’s turn. Person #2 can do either A or B:
Choice A – Choose an unwrapped present from the pile. They must unwrap it and show the group like #1 did. Their turn ends, now it is #3’s turn.

Choice B – Steal the gift from person #1. Person #2 would take person #1’s unwrapped gift, and person #1 must take a wrapped gift from the pile and open that one. Now it is #3’s turn.

TURN 3: Person #3 continues the game choosing to steal or take a new gift:
Choice A – They can choose an unwrapped present from the pile and open it. Now it is the next person’s turn.

Choice B – They can steal the gift from person #1 or #2. If they steal from either person the person who it was stolen from (giftless now) can either steal any other gift from another player or they can take a wrapped gift from the pile. If they choose to steal they can NOT take the gift one that was just stolen from them or any “safe gifts” (a gift that has been stolen 3 times is considered “Safe” and can not be stolen again – see below). Also, if they steal a present the person stolen from then get to choose to either take or steal a gift.

Note: When a gift is stolen the person it was stolen from always has the choice to take another wrapped gift from the pile or stealing from another player (following the stealing rules, of course). If they choose to steal the person it was stolen from gets to choose, this coninutes until a wrapped gift is selected and the turn ends.

This continues until the last person has gone.

End of Game

The last person gets to choose to steal or take the last gift from the pile.
– If they choose the last gift in the pile the game ends and everyone keeps their gifts.
– If they choose to steal a gift, then the gift stealing continues until someone chooses to take the last gift in the pile. When the last gift is chosen the game ends.

Stealing/Safe Gift Rules

1. If your gift is stolen you can choose to steal someone elses gift or take a gift from the pile.
2. A person who “steals” a gift can not “steal back” the gift that was stolen from them on that same turn.
3. A gift can not be stolen more than 3 times. After a gift is “stolen” 3 times it is considered “safe”.

1. Mary takes a gift from the pile.
2. Jen takes the gift from Mary – 1 Steal
3. Rosie takes the gift from Jen – 2 Steals
4. Justin takes the gift from Rosie – 3 Steals
The gift is now “Safe” and is Justin’s to keep.

4. You can not steal a “safe gift”. Whomever is holding the safe gift it’s their’s to keep.
5. Make sure to make the stealing rules clear before begining as things can get a bit crazy.

*Most people use 3 times stolen for a gift to be safe. You can increase this or not have “safe gifts” it’s up to you and your group.