The Chinese Gift Exchange game is known by a few different names, including Dirty Santa, White Elephant or Grinch Exchange Game. The game is a variation of a gift exchange in which each guest arrives at the party with a gift, and leaves with a gift that someone else brought to the party. Instead of handing a gift directly to another guest, or choosing one off a gift table, the Chinese Gift Exchange adds additional entertainment and takes a different strategy.
Setting Up the Chinese Gift Exchange
Have your guests each bring a wrapped gift for the Chinese Gift Exchange. Set a price range of approximately $10 so that each of the gifts purchased are relatively close to each other in value. A suggested range could be $20 to $30 per gift. Instruct each guest to put his gift on the gift table as he enters, but ask that she does not put her name on the package. This way who bought each gift is a mystery.
Choose an Order
Fill a basket with small pieces of paper. These pieces of paper should either have a number or a guest's name on it. If you use numbers, ask each guest to draw a number before the game starts. If you use names, you can draw a paper out of the basket to start each round of the game, to determine whose turn it is.
Taking a Turn
On the first guest's turn, he chooses a gift and unwraps it. The gift is his for the current time. Any player other than the first player has a choice of either opening a new gift or stealing a gift from another guest. If a guest has her gift stolen from her, she can then either steal a gift from someone else or open a new gift.
Special Rules for Stealing
There are rules each round for stealing. A gift cannot be stolen more than three times. The person that steals the gift the third time gets to keep it, and it cannot be stolen from him. A new round starts each time a player's name is chosen from the basket or the next player on the list is announced. Only three gifts can be stolen in a round. The third person to have a gift stolen from her in a round must open a new gift and does not have the option to steal.
Gifts cannot be stolen from the person that just stole the same gift from you in the same round. In other words, if John starts the round and steals a gift from Jane, Jane cannot steal that gift back from John. Instead Jane must steal a gift from another player or open a new gift. This rule also applies to couples that arrive at the party together, they cannot steal from each other. This avoids couples having an advantage over single players.
Final Player Rule
The last player in the game is actually the player that started the game. He gets two turns, because he did not have an option to steal on his first turn. After every player has had a turn, the first player has the option to start a final round by stealing a gift and placing his gift he had back on the gift table. The round continues until someone chooses the gift that was placed on the gift table after having her gift stolen, or after three steals. After the three steals, the person stolen from the third time must take the gift on the gift table.
Alan Kirk has been writing for online publications since 2006. He has more than 15 years' experience in catering, management and government relations. Kirk has a bachelor's degree in business management from the University of Maryland.