It used to be that families had no rules about gift buying. Everyone bought for everyone else, and gifts were exchanged when the family all got together somewhere during the Christmas season.
These days, it's more common for people to draw a name out of a hat or get assigned a person to buy for. Or the family creates a type of “white elephant” exchange instead of having family members buy for individuals in particular. So, what many families need is a fun way to exchange the gifts, whether they be for a specific person or whether they are 'white elephant” type gifts.
If the family members drew names, there are several fun things you can do. The gifts can be hidden and clues given as to the location of the gifts. So, if you arrive at grandma's house with your gift for Aunt Martha, you might tuck her gift into a kitchen cabinet. Then you'd create a series of clue as to here it is. You might say, “Cinnamon lurks here” or “it's the hub of the home, but not always the home of the hub”.
The clues can be silly or deadly serious. They can be designed so someone will know where to find their present in just minutes, or designed so that it takes a series of clues to get someone right to their gift. If the group is small or the house particularly large, and the participants have the time you can always create a hunt where more than one tip is left and one tip leads to another, which leads to another until the gift is finally found.
Why should the kids have all the fun? Create some fun gift exchange ideas for adults. Whether the family is doing a name draw and exchanging regular gifts or not, you can have some good family fun with a white elephant gift exchange. How about a themed white elephant gift exchange? If the family is into fishing, you could create that as a theme. Everyone must bring a gift related to fishing (this could be anything from sporting goods items, to a singing bass that goes on the wall). It could be a hand held electronic fishing game or a board game with fishing as a theme.
In that same vein, you could create a “cooking” white elephant exchange or a camping themed gift exchange. Again, it's more about what will please members of the family than anything. Then create some fun games for the exchange itself. Perhaps everyone draws a number and gets to pick their gifts from the pile in the middle based on their number. Perhaps you begin the game that way, but then also people to 'steal' someone else's gift if they choose.
You can require that the gift recipient shakes a gift, studies a gift and makes a good, educated guess as to its contents before opening it. If they are right, they can “steal” someone else's gift, but if they are wrong, they keep theirs. Add to the silliness factor by playing a card game and dictating that people can't get their gift and open it until they win a hand in the card game (ideally something fairly quick like poker or rummy).
The idea behind any family gift exchange should be enjoying each other's company and enjoying the Christmas spirit. As long as it's fun and engaging, there's no reason why the adults in the family can't have some fun games for exchanging gifts just the kids might.
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Family Christmas Gift Exchange Games