The holidays are coming, and it’s time for presents! Among other traditions, gift exchange has become common among families and colleagues across the world. But, for some people, presents are a burden. They might not be good at picking them, so they don’t appreciate the whole process. That’s why we prepared the best gift exchange ideas to help make the activity more fun!

What Is a Gift Exchange?

Gift exchange is self-explanatory. It’s when you get presents for others and they get you gifts. These swaps often happen around the holidays, especially Christmas and the New Year. Depending on how you agree, two or more people can participate in the trade.

Before you start buying and swapping gifts, it’s vital to agree on the rules. That could include anything from the price limit to a specific present category, such as holiday T-shirts. Another thing to consider is the gift exchange type, and there are two main swapping types!

1. White Elephant

A white elephant gift exchange occurs when you agree that every visitor buys a present that fits a specific theme. They should wrap it so the actual gift isn’t visible. Gather the guests and assign everyone a number. Draw the first number and ask that visitor to open a present. Now, draw another number. The following guest can either steal a gift already opened or open a new present. The process is fun but also risky since it could cause conflicts and resentment. The good news is that everyone gets a gift in the end, and it’s just a matter of which one.

2. Secret Santa

gift exchange theme ideas

Each person purchases a present only for another guest that’ll be attending the party. You need to organize a draw before buying gifts. The drawing pot should contain everyone’s names, and each person pulls out a single piece of paper and keeps the name in secrecy.

A secret Santa gift exchange ensures everyone gets a present, but no one knows who purchased it for them.

The Best Gift Exchange Theme Ideas

You might have been doing this for years and be looking for a change. Perhaps it’s the first time you are swapping gifts and you want to make everything special. If you need inspiration, here are some cool gift exchange theme ideas to make the activity more entertaining!

“Favorite Things” Gift Swap

These are excellent gift exchange theme ideas for the white elephant approach. Each person should bring a gift related to their favorite thing, but always limit the present’s value. For example, if you enjoy skiing, you can purchase winter gloves. And if you are an animal lover, a small figurine in the shape of a dog or cat is an ideal choice. In case of a person paying a lot of attention to fashion and everyday outfits, choosing stylish sunglasses will definitely be a good fit.

Handmade Gift Exchange

This one requires more effort, so make sure everyone’s on board. Not everyone is good at making handmade items, so consider adding a rule that you can purchase handmade items. Some gift exchange theme ideas include jewelry, artwork, customized pottery, etc. You can even consider getting a personalized tee at a graphic T-shirt online store. The writing idea can be all yours, so that can count as a handmade item!

Budget Guided Gift Exchange

You don’t have to limit the present type but restrict the budget. That will give you more freedom to go with the desired family gift exchange theme ideas since you don’t have to go with a specific present category. Some great suggestions could include funny hats, kitchen tools, bathroom spa items, etc. The budget can vary from $5 to $50, but you don’t want to make the participants spend too much.

gift exchange theme ideas


It’s holiday time, so how about choosing ornaments for the present swap? You can find inspiration in the recipient’s favorite things, such as movies, sports, etc. If necessary, set it to a specific decoration type. But don’t hesitate to get creative within the limits since the receiver will appreciate it.

For the Kitchen

Kitchen presents are good family gift exchange theme ideas. But don’t forget to discuss the budget and acceptable items. You don’t want one person to bring a large appliance and another a fridge magnet. Recipe and cocktail books, as well as cookware, are among the best gift exchange ideas for this swap.

Board Games

Gift exchange games are an excellent fit if your gang loves this social activity. Board games offer a vast selection, ranging from solo to cooperative and multiplayer options. Genres and themes vary, too, so consider the recipient’s preference. Would they love an advanced Game of Thrones board game or a classic Monopoly?

Gift Card Exchange

Gift cards are a nice touch, and they can take some weight off the buyer’s shoulders. Instead of purchasing actual gift exchange games, you get a voucher for the store that sells them. Gift cards are also suitable for restaurants, bars, boutiques, etc.

gift exchange theme ideas

Wine/Beer Exchange Gift Swap

Does your gang enjoy getting together and drinking beer or wine while watching TV? If so, you don’t need to look for other gift exchange theme ideas. You could get a special craft beer or a fine bottle of wine for the recipient. Furthermore, pick a drink with a name that reminds you of holiday time.

Make Your Mother Blush

The term refers to presentations unsuitable for work or all crowds. But if your gang enjoys cheeky gifts with some adult humor, this guarantees spectacular entertainment during the swapping event. But make sure moms aren’t around when exchanging presents!

The Best Book I’ve Ever Read

A good book is a fine present for any opportunity. So, how about choosing it for your gift exchange theme ideas? Spice things up by requiring everyone to bring their favorite book they’ve ever read. It’s an excellent way to get to know others while gifting phenomenal books!