I’ll never forget the first time I got mail. It wasn’t in my family’s actual mailbox; I was at school, and it was Valentine’s Day. The feeling of happiness that washed over me as I took all the cards out of the little mailbox I’d made from construction paper was like nothing else. There were notes from all my classmates, a token of our friendship. Granted, I was 6 and it was mandatory that if you made a card for one person in the class you had to make one for everyone—but still! Valentine’s Day seemed a whole lot simpler when it was about the fun of showing people you cared and not an intense, high-pressure holiday about proving your true love for someone.
That’s why every year, I like to make my Valentine’s Day a little more fun but playing some sort of creative gift exchange game with my family and friends. Not everyone has a partner, so opening up the holiday to be more inclusive ensures that we all have a good time. The movies make it seem like if you don’t have the perfect flowers-chocolate-dinner-champagne-dancing evening with a “special someone,” the night’s a bust. But in my opinion, February 14th is about celebrating all kinds of love, from the love we share with family and friends to the smaller moments of happiness that make a relationship strong, like laughing together during a silly game.
These Valentine’s Day gift exchange games are the perfect way to inject a little extra fun into your V-Day celebration. Bring on the cookies, candy, and hilarity—this year, Valentine’s Day is about having fun with all the people you love.
A Family-Centric Homemade Treats Swap
“She’s back! She’s back!” My sister and I ran to the door, eager to see what my mom would show up with. Every year, she took a trip to my Aunt’s house for a cookie swap. We helped my mom bake a tray of cookies to take with her, and she returned with a platter full of a variety of sweet treats for us to snack on.
My mother didn’t love baking, so being able to make just one simple recipe and come home with a huge variety of goodies was exciting for all of us. To this day, I swear by throwing cookie swaps, and there’s no better time of year to have one than Valentine’s Day.
Throwing your very own Valentine’s treat swap is easy. Just tell everyone to bring a batch of cookies—say, 24 per person. Then, at the party, everyone divides their treats up evenly among the group. Each person returns home with the same amount of treats they showed up with but with an incredible variety. It’s a tasty, fun way to spread a little Valentine’s love with anyone, from family and friends to coworkers.
A Galentine’s Day Candy Swap for Friends
Until I met my husband, I spent a lot of Valentine’s Days without any “special someone” to share the day with. The solution? My friends and I would get together to celebrate Galentine’s Day, a festive occasion honoring the strong bonds of our friendship. Of course, our festivities involved a lot of my favorite Valentine’s Day treat—candy!
To this day, I still celebrate Galentine’s Day on the 13th of every February, à la Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation (my girl power hero).
To put a fun spin on the day, I decided to host a candy swap. Every guest would be assigned a gift recipient like in a traditional Secret Santa game, but instead of regular presents, we’d try to choose the perfect sweet for our pal.
I used Elfster to organize the swap. I just inputted my friend’s email addresses to set everything up, then the site automatically assigned each person a gift recipient. We even got to each make wish lists on the site, so our Secret Valentine’s Santa would know which sorts of sweets we prefer (I’m chocolate, all the way, but my best friend goes wild for anything fruity and chewy).
When the day arrived, I set up my apartment with pink and red balloons, put out all my coziest throw blankets, and cued up a marathon of Parks and Rec and The Golden Girls to watch while we snacked on our candies.
It was funny how even a simple gift of candy felt more special with a game involved, and after our Secret Valentine Santa swap, we all cuddled up on the couch for a day of bonding and laughter.
A Silly Gifts for Your Sweetie Swap
My hubby and I aren’t the red roses, fancy dinner out, and long and heartfelt affirmations of love type of couple. On Valentine’s Day, we’re much more likely to order take-out and watch a funny movie together—nothing beats laughing with the person you love.
That’s why one year I decided to organize a different sort of Valentine’s Day gift exchange game. I hosted a fun Yankee Swap game, but there was a catch. Instead of each person bringing a romantic sort of Valentine’s gift, everyone had to bring a gag gift. Whatever each guest went home with, they’d have to give as a Valentine’s Day present to their significant other or best friend—no matter how outrageous or silly it was!
Everyone brought a wrapped gift, and we could barely stop giggling before the game began. Our chuckles turned to screams of mirth as we unwrapped and swapped feather boas, books on the art of love, and, inexplicably, a shiny new hubcap someone had found on the side of the road. Thank goodness my husband has a sense of humor or he might have been pretty confused by the red satin camisole I gave to him on February 14th! It was definitely a gift neither of us will forget, and I can’t wait to throw my next silly Valentine’s Day gift exchange.
Celebrate With a Valentine’s Day Gift Exchange Game
On Valentine’s Day, I think it’s important to remember that there are all kinds of love that make the world go round. It’s not just about the cookie-cutter romances you see on TV and in the movies. The love between families, the love you share with your friends, and the special moments of true intimacy couples find when sharing a funny moment together are just as important as the grand declarations and passionate tango dances that pepper the silver screen.
Valentines Day gift exchange games are the perfect way to foster these other kinds of love. You can be as silly or sincere as you like, striking whatever balance between boxes of chocolate and jokey romance as you wish. The point is to get away from the rote “cards and flowers” routine in favor of sharing some special moments with the people you love. Chocolates taste good in the moment, sure, but it’s the memory of the fun times you spent together with your loved ones during the gift exchange that will stay with you forever.
For more gifting inspiration, check out Elfster’s Valentine’s Day Gift Guide or start a gift exchange with Elfster today. Share your ideas with us on Elfster’s Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, and on Instagram @Elfster.