Every year our family gets together for Christmas. There's lots of us gathering and having a great time. It's the special time of the year when we share with eachother what we have been up to and catch up with some of the relatives that we have not seen in a while.
This time of year is particularly exciting, not only for kids but adults also, because it's time to exchange gifts, eat good festive food and indulge in delicious drinks. To add to all this, we are also excitedly anticipating the tricky Christmas game we have come to love celebrating every year called "Dirty Santa". Despite it's name, this game is fun and appropriate for our children too and can be a great way to spend the good part of the evening.
Purpose Of Dirty Santa
You might be thinking: "What's this all about? Why would I want to run a Dirty Santa when we can simply give eachother gifts?". That's a fair question that deserves an asnwer. You see, it's easy for 4 or 5 people to buy eachother gifts, chich means each person will be buying 5 gifts, but when the group of people attending a party grows and there are over 8, (sometimes 30 people in office parties) it's just not practical for everyone to buy so many gifts. everyone would be buying $10 dollar gift certificates and that can get expenssive, and besides, where's the fun in that?
With Dirty Santa gift exchange, each person has to buy only one gift, for not particular person unlike in Secret Santa and at the end of the exchange everyone ends up with a random gift they "won" during the exchange. Now, I said "won" but in reality the process involves a fierce swapping ans stealing from eachother. This process can get really exciting, which makes it all so much more fun.
If you are planning an event, you will need to understand how the game is played and what the rules are. If you are not the host but rather a guest of the Dirty santa party, you will most likely will get all the rules from the host, but you might still want to know about how the games is played.
Rules Of Playing Dirty SantaRule 1). Define Price Limit
Set some sort of price range that's acceptable for your event. A good common amount is $20 to $25 for a funny GAG gift and even meaningful presents can be purchased for that amount. It is good to have a price limit or a range, to make sure that the approximate value of all gifts will be same.Rule 2). Everyone Buys One Gift
Each person will walk away with a single gift at the end of the day, which means everyone must bring a gift themselves to the party. make sure to remind your guests so they do not forget.Rule 3). Top Notch Wrapping
One thing to pay close attention is wrapping. Dirty Santa gifts are expected to be well wrapped, even look deceivengly good to make people want to open them. The guest should not be able to guess what's inside. Remember, this is the time to get creatieve and even a bit "pranky" by "overwrapping" gifts multiple times to make it hard to open, making them heavier with dead weight to seem more valuable or shaping them like items that they are not. More deceivingly wrapped - the better!Rule 4). Draw Player Order
You have to determine who goes first and who follows. To do this, have guests draw numbers from abowl, then arrange everyone around the gifts for easy, clockwise gift swapping and opening action!Rule 5). Opening And Stealing
Each player must open an unopened gift or steal from previously opened gifts.If the game does not allow stealing until all gifts have been opened, then have everyone open gifts in the order of the drawn numbers, then let the person with number 1 do the first stealing.Rule 6). No Swap-Backs
If the gift is stollen from you, it is your turn to steal another gift or open an unopened gift, but you can not steal the gift just taken from you right away. You must wait for another opportunity to strike.Rule 7). (Optional) Themes
Themes for gifts can make gift buying more predictable and easy. A Construction company running a party for it's employees may choose a gift theme of tools under $25. A group of students may decde to run a theme of book swapping and your grandma may decide that it should all be about hard liquor!Rule 8). (Optional) Timer
To extend the gift swapping period, add a timer to the end of the game. When all the gifts have been opened, gifts must be stollen from eachother until the timer countdown is completed.Rule 9). (Optional) No Swap Till All Opened
With large party groups the time may really stretch until all gifts are opened, so it's a good idea to not allow stealing until all of the presents have been opened. This is also an example where game end timer may come in handy.Rule 10). (Optional) Early Outs
A common optional rule is to have a 3 strikes early out for gifts or player. This means that if a gift is stolen 3 times, or the player gets stollen from 3 times, the gift that they are holding will be theirs and they are out of the game.
How The Game Ends
The ending of the game would depend on the rules that you want to use. The basic idea is that the game should end when everyone gets a chance to open and steal a gift. The game should not be too quick to leave a feeling of not enough time was spend playing but also should not be too long and bore everyone to death.
Striking a balance when it comes to duration of the Dirty Santa game does not have to be hard. if the group is small, make sure to allow for a longer period of time for swapping, in this case a timer ending optional rule above might be a good idea. If the group is too large, then not allowing swaps before all the gifts have been opened would make the whole exchange more consise and well timed.
Example of Playing Dirty Santa
We usually have two Dirty Santa parties to go to, one with my family and one at work. Both play out very similarly because the number of people playing is roughly the same. Let's say that there are 12 people playing. What would happen at the game and how would it all go down?
First, you announce the date for the party. With our family, we usually meet on Chritmas day and exchange gifts after dinner. Our office party however is a week or two prior to christmas during the weekend. Announce the date to your group and give them rules.
The Dirty Santa rule you give to your guest should include maximum price to pay per gift, to make sure that the gifts are well wrapped and not possible to guess what they are. If you are involving the guest with food and drinks planning, this is a good time to make these arrangements as well (more on this later).
It's good to make the announcement and invite everyone few weeks before the eevent. Then, remind your guests about the party few days before the date to make sure they are still all on board and remember.
On the date of exchange, gather all the gifts in the center of the room. Tear up small pieces of paper and write down numbers from 1 to 12 (for our example of 12 players). Then have everyone pick out a random number from a bowl. These numbers determine when it's your turn to open gifts. it's recommended to arrange everyone around the pile of presents in the order of these numbers clockwise.
Now the person who got the number 1 gets to choose any gift and open it. The second person follows by either opening another gift or stealing from first person. If they choose to steal from the first guest, now first guest can open yet another present but can not steal back the gift just stollen from them. Then it's third player turn. They get to open yet another gift that was not opened yet or steal from either first player or second. if they opena gift, the turn goes to the peson with number 5 in their hand, but if they steal an opened gift from previous players, then that player has their turn to steal or open a gift before it's fifth players turn. Get it?
This process continues to the end untill all gifts have been opened. usually when the last gift is opened, the game ends, but there are optional rules to make the game either a bit more fair or more exciting.
You see, if the game ended when the last gift was opened, the last person opening the gift may not have had any chance to steal/swap presents, so lot of times the host of the pary has either timed mandatory swapping or X number of mandatory swaps in the end. if the party is using number of swaps, usualy this number is the same as total players in the Dirty Santa game.
ending the game with timer is even more exciting, because now people rush to steal gifts and it gets especially fast paced and intense at the very last few seconds. Whatever method of game ending you choose, just make sure it's fair and fun for everyone!
Encouraging Better Gifts
The gift buying process is already stressful and time consuming for many of the Christmas shoppers, so it's not unheard of to expect some of the guest not put much effort in selecting a good, funny gifts. This is why it might be a good idea to add a small rule to your Dirty Santa Party that will encourage guest to buy and bring better presents:
What we do at our family Christmas party is that the host of the party, which is usually me, buys one cool gift that does not take part in the gift exchange, but rather gets awarded to the person who bring the best gift. How do we determine whobrought the best gift? There's two ways to do this, either put it to a vote, or count how many times gifts get stolen and the most stolen gift's purchaser gets the award. Simple and fun!
Tips For Planning The Party
When you plan your Dirty Santa party, you have to also plan the dinner and entertainment. Have your guests suggest some board games, Christmas games and such to make the evening more interesting.
For food and drinks it's a good idea for everyone to chip in with the favourite dish of their making, while others can bring deserts and drinks. Alcohol is almost alwaysa good idea for the Christmas party, but as a host please always make sure that all the guests have safe means of getting back home.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Dirty, fierce gift exchange this year!