Saying the holidays are hectic is like saying water is wet. Everyone knows that. There’s so much hustle and bustle packed into a few short weeks. There are office parties and family parties and visits and shopping and more. New Year’s Eve comes almost as a surprise; like, “Oh yeah, now this.”
That’s why we use New Year’s as a time to exhale, relax, and reflect. Our main tradition is to gather a small group of friends who we didn’t get to spend much time with during the previous holidays. We sit around, tell stories, talk about resolutions, and exchange gifts, all while waiting for that countdown that signifies a fresh start.
There are several different kinds of New Year’s Eve gift exchange games we play, to keep things… well, new. But it doesn’t really matter what game you play, as long as you play it together. And remember that it isn’t about the time on the clock but the time you spend cherishing each other’s company.
Why have a New Year’s Eve Gift Exchange?
We have a practical reason for having an exchange: we’re seeing people we didn’t get to see over Christmas and we want to make up for that. I also think there’s something beautiful about ending the year by appreciating each other. Giving a gift is a way to say, “You matter to me. I appreciate that, no matter how crazy things get, we have borne it together.”
Opening that present is like unwrapping the upcoming year. It’s full of promise and hope. It’s fresh and exciting. It’s something you’ve never before held in your hands.
Also, presents are great and way better than being packed into Times Square. So there’s that, too.
Our 3 Favorite New Year’s Eve Gift Exchange Games
You can just add some twists to classic gift exchange games for your New Year’s Eve party. Here are three of our favorites.
Resolution White Elephant
You probably know the rules to White Elephant. Everyone brings a gift and gets a number. The first person picks a gift and opens it. The second person can choose to steal or pick a new gift. If they steal, the first person picks another a gift. The third person can steal either gift or pick a new one, and so on.
But you don’t have to do it with numbers. We like to have everyone write a New Year’s resolution and put it in a hat. Then, we draw those resolutions to determine what order people will go in.
It’s fun because you learn something about your friends. You can even have them talk a little about their resolution before getting to the present part.
A few notes:
- Depending on the size of your group, you can go around more than once and have more than one resolution.
- For a twist, you can use a resolution they kept from the previous year.
- Or that they didn’t keep, if you’d rather have a few laughs.
Year-End Trivia Grab Bag
As with White Elephant, everyone brings a gift. They’re all put on a table (or a bag, if you have one big enough). But instead of picking randomly, you have a trivia contest about the year that passed.
Basically, gather a bunch of questions about what happened in the last year. These can be about pop culture, politics, sports, science, anything. Ask the questions like a regular trivia host and have your friends fill out a sheet with their answers.
Whoever gets the most points picks a present first, and so on. You can have the presents unwrapped, which means the person who wins gets to get the thing they want the most. Or if they’re wrapped, the person who wins still has an element of chance.
A few notes:
- Trivia questions don’t have to be about the world. It can be fun to do them about your friend group. Have everyone submit one fact about themselves and see how well you know each other!
- You can do this as a White Elephant as well. I would recommend the person who gets the fewest points goes first, though.
Santa might be done with his supernatural reverse-theft by the 26th, but that doesn’t mean you need to be done with the spirit of Christmas. We all know how Secret Santa works. You’re randomly paired up and buy gifts for each other. I love it because the gifts aren’t random. You choose them for someone, thinking about what they really might like.
Of course, after Christmas, you might be done with shopping. That’s why, if you want to do a Secret Santa for New Year’s Eve, you want to make it as easy as possible. Here are some Secret Santa tips:
- Use a Secret Santa generator that draws names for you, incorporating your exclusion list so that partners, parents/children, brothers/sisters, bosses/subordinates, etc. don’t draw each other.
- Browse gift guides and create wish lists online, drawing from the world’s top retailers. That way, your Secret Santa can buy directly from your list and you can add ideas at your convenience.
- An iPhone app and Android app are pretty great too. That way, you can easily update your wish list on-the-go.
A generator like this makes everything easy. And because the process is so simple, you can wait until after Christmas to start. That means you can put that awesome thing you didn’t end up getting for Christmas back on your list. It’s a second chance.
Celebrating Another Year Together
That’s a fun thought, that “second chance.” That’s sort of what New Year’s is all about. No matter how good a year you had—and we hope it was wonderful—there are things that could have gone better. The new year gives you an opportunity to start fresh.
Of course, it isn’t going to be perfect, and of course, the last year isn’t completely washed away. But that’s not the point. The point is hope. The point is looking forward. The point of the holiday is that we all take a step ahead.
That’s why I love celebrating with a gift exchange. It’s a chance to look at the moment and appreciate the people you’re with right now. Enjoy what you can give and receive in this one unique spot of time, poised between yesterday and tomorrow. Because though we’re thinking about the future, I still want to enjoy the present.
New year, new way to run your gift exchange—and the Elfster Secret Santa generator makes it easy. You can organize a gift exchange and start a Wish List, completely online or from the comfort of an iPhone app or Android app.