Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas

Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas

Every year my friend Holly hosts a Christmas gift exchange for our friends. For the past several years, she’s asked me to help with a theme for the gifts (because I love both research and a good theme party). Having a theme adds to the fun and keeps us creative (so we don’t give the same thing every year). Last year, after someone else asked me for theme help, I thought I should write a blog post so I can have a handy list, and, well, it just seems like the perfect topic for a blog.

We generally set a price limit (mostly we stay around $15), and we swap the gifts dirty-Santa style, so you never know what you’ll end up with! We keep things simple—we have snacks and desserts and just chat and catch up before the main event of the gift exchange. We look forward to this tradition every year!

I think this was our first theme. We picked the color green. So, every gift was either literally green in color, or was “green,” as in good for the environment. We had some recycled jewelry, to-go coffee mugs, green tea, etc. You could pick any color and encourage people to think outside the box! (Red could mean a book you read, for example.)

Christmas Carols.
For this theme, we had everyone pick a Christmas carol (you could also assign one to everyone or each person a different one), and they brought a gift on that theme. We had fun trying to guess the carol based on the gift. We had a Christmas welcome mat for “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and some cute gloves and scarf for “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” for example.

Tennessee Christmas.
We’re in Tennessee, so this theme just meant local goods. We all shopped at local stores and bought fun items from those businesses. We had fun jewelry, coffee from a local shop, and barbecue sauce exchanged.

Favorite Things.
This one is slightly complicated, but a lot of fun. We had everyone bring five of their “favorite things” (we kept the price limit lower, around $5 per thing). People brought a favorite lotion, a favorite lipgloss, a favorite keychain, a favorite tea, etc. Then, we each drew five names out of a bowl and we got one of each of their favorite things. So, we each left with five little presents!

We exchanged gifts that had a nostalgic meaning for us or were simply antiques. Either way, they had to have a yesteryear theme. Gifts included the claymation Christmas videos (Rudolph, Frosty, etc.), antique Christmas ornaments, supplies for cookie baking. We had fun talking about our family traditions and giving the supplies to pass them on!

Gifts that give back.
In Nashville, we have several companies that support missions organizations and other non-profits through selling goods like jewelry, candles, coffee, etc. We love that we get something fun to exchange while also giving to others! If you don’t have a lot of similar companies in your area, they’re easy to find online.

Aisle 9.
We haven’t actually done this one yet, but it’s this year’s theme and we’re all pretty excited about it. Basically, you go to a store (WalMart, Target, Walgreens, etc.), go to aisle 9, and pick out a gift. We think this one will be fun and funny and require us to get a little creative (with some nice constraints). Maybe we’ll be exchanging cleaning supplies and cat food, but we’ll have some good laughs!

Similar to the color theme, you could have everyone bring a gift for a certain letter, or maybe the first letter of their name. It’s like the gift exchange version of Scattergories!

Mug, Gift Card, or Book Exchange.
Everyone brings the same sort of thing, but ends up with a different one. There’s still some room for creativity and I think these would be great for mixed groups of guys and girls or for anyone short on time!

I’ll Be Home for Christmas.
I have no idea what we actually called this theme at the time, but we gave gifts like Christmas movies, board games, bath soaps. Anything you might want for a relaxing and fun Christmas at home!

Christmas Decorations/Ornament Exchange.
We haven’t done this one, but we’ve discussed it a few times. This theme would be super easy—just bring an ornament or something to decorate your friends’ homes for Christmas. I think a Christmas welcome mat, a Christmas candle, or a festive serving dish would be gifts anyone could use!

Around the World.
Pick a country or let everyone choose their own! Potential gifts could be Ethiopian coffee, ornaments made in other countries, swiss chocolates. With the power of the internet (and perhaps your local World Market), this would be a fun and fairly easy theme to stick to.

Of course, you can always just set a price limit and have no theme. Everyone can just bring something they’d like to receive and you’d most likely leave with something you like, too. If you do have a theme for your exchange and it’s not listed above, please leave it in the comments. I’m always looking for new ideas! 



  1. These are great ideas! Makes me want to have a party!

  2. Such fun, new ideas. Thanks
    Merry Christmas

  3. Trying to help our group keep it fun and easy, I decided to ask if they wanted to exchange Christmas tree ornaments or silly/fuzzy socks. Some of the ladies wanted to exchange both. So, some are just participating in one exchange, some in both, and some ladies are just coming to drink hot chocolate/coffee/hot apple cider, eat Christmas cookies and fellowship. I’m looking forward to it.

  4. Great ideas! I’ve written several down to use in the years to come. Last year we used the theme – “As seen on tv” and bought those things/gadgets that they are always advertising on tv. We set a limit of $25 – the most popular item was the “Bacon Cooker” and light things. This year we are using the theme “Homemade in Kentucky” since we live in Kentucky.

    • I love both those ideas, Cathy!

  5. In college we did a panty swap one year. In a group of all women this would still be fun. You can’t really do this Dirty-Santa style, due to sizes, but we all put our name and number size on slips of paper and drew names to purchase a pair for. Who doesn’t need clean undies?!?

    Also did a “warm and cozy” swap one year and gifts included things like warm fuzzy slippers, fleece throws, throw pillows, scarves and mittens, etc.

  6. Our small group does a surprise gift. We have to bring something from around the house we don’t use or need. We wrap it up and don’t tell who it is from. We pull names and take turns exchanging. We always go home with something unique! No money is spent on the gifts and we laugh and have a blast.

  7. Our ladies have brought ornaments, mugs, and gloves. To exchange we play the right left game. Someone reads a version of the Christmas story and everytime the word right or left is used, one passes in that direction. It is hilarious, and you never end with your gift. Google right-left game and Chridtmas story. You should find it.

  8. Thank you for these ideas! I host a girlfriends Christmas party each year and we have used several of these, but you gave me more to add to my list. We’ve also done jewelry and hats. Both made for fun exchanges!

  9. this gift exchange ideas are really cool.. thanks for sharing this with all


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