Yankee Swap Rules

Another variation on the gift exchange is a fun game called Yankee Swap. Suitable for small to large groups who will be celebrating at a party, the game, also going by Yankee Doodle or Dirty Santa, adds an element of excitement and humor to traditional gift giving.

In Yankee Swap, each participant brings a wrapped, unmarked gift and places it in a designated area. Guests are given numbers as they arrive, or their names are randomly drawn, and they select and unwrap gifts from the pile in that order — with a twist.

The person who receives the number 1 will pick a gift (that is not their own) from the pile and open it for all to see (or models it, reads it, or demos it). During the selection of a wrapped gift, the participant may visually inspect the gifts, pick them up and/or gently shake them.

The person who receives number 2 then chooses a gift and opens it, and then must decide whether to keep it or swap it for the first player’s gift. Each person in order then gets to select a present, open it and decide whether to keep it or swap it for any other gift someone has already opened.

Opening of gifts and swapping takes place until all the presents have been chosen. Finally, the person who picked first gets to choose from all the gifts or keep what he/she has already received. In the end, the gift you are holding is the gift you take home.

With the Secret Santa Generator powered by Elfster, organizing and managing a Yankee Swap gift exchange is now easier and much more fun.

Best of all – It’s absolutely FREE!

SecretSanta.com gift exchanges are now powered by the Elfster Secret Santa Generator! To create a Yankee Swap gift exchange, just click on the Create a Gift Exchange Event tab on the top of the page.

Here’s How To Create a Yankee Swap Gift Exchange:

  • Sign into your account, or if you are already in your account, click on Start A Gift Exchange and follow the step-by-step instructions in the Secret Santa Generator wizard.
  • Enter a title for your gift exchange event in the Gift Exchange Name box. (something like John Doe’s 3rd Annual White Elephant or XYZ Corp.’s 2004 White Elephant).
  • Set the date your gift exchange event will take place and the deadline date for your invitees to RSVP.
  • Enter details about your gift exchange, like whether or not you will be participating and how gifts will be exchanged. If gifts will be exchanged at a party, provide a location (Will it be around the family Christmas tree or in the lunchroom in the workplace?)
  • Select a budget for your gifts. Keep in mind that swapping with family members might involve a higher price range than one that takes place in an office environment. But remember, it isn’t the amount of money spent that makes a gift a hit — the more creative the gift the better.
  • Add a description in the “Anything else you want to tell everyone?” section. This area will provide participants with any details about the event – e.g. party theme, game rules, etc. This description will be available on the “Gift Exchange” page.
    For a little variation in your Yankee Swap game, why not have all of the gifts tied to a particular theme (i.e. Hawaiian, Musical, Gourmet Foods, Fashion). Adding a theme allows the participants to be more creative with their gift choices.
  • Next, you are ready to invite friends and family. Create your list of invitees for the event using email or by posting a link to share on Facebook or Twitter.
  • You will now be able to access your new gift exchange by clicking that option, by clicking on the Gift Exchanges page at the top of the screen, or from your Home page.
  • Once invitations have been sent, participants will be able to RSVP to your gift exchange and get started on Elfster, too.
  • Since names will not be drawn to assign specific matches in a Yankee Swap style gift exchange, please visit the Privacy & Options tab to check the option: Do not draw names automatically after the sign up date. This will allow the organizer to control the gift assignment numbers.
As a registered member of Elfster, all of your gift exchange events are listed in your Gift Exchanges page, which is accessible by clicking on the Gift Exchanges tab on the top of your homepage. Gift Exchange Event management can only be done by the gift exchange Organizer (the person who created the gift exchange) or any of their assigned Assistants.

When you log into your account, you will automatically be brought to your homepage. The Gift Exchanges page will include all of the following information:

  • User profile information – all of your registration information, which can be edited by clicking on the Update My Profile button.
  • Current gift exchange event information – listing all of your gift exchange events for the current year (whether you are an administrator or participant).
  • Previous gift exchange event information – listing all of your gift exchange events for previous years (whether you were an administrator or a participant).

To manage or view any one of the current gift exchange events, click on the Gift Exchange name in the Current Gift Exchanges section. This will take you to the Gift Exchange Event page.

Managing A Yankee Swap Gift Exchange Event:

As the organizer of your exchange, only you or any assistants you have assigned will see options to help you manage your exchange. To pick an assistant to help you manage your exchange, from your exchange page, click on the word Assistants where you see your own name listed as Organizer. You will select another participant in the exchange from a drop down menu.

These options are shown to Organizers and Assistants as tabs at the top of your gift exchange page as follows:

Activity — view activity related to the exchange, including messages to the group, wishing activity, etc.

Edit — change gift exchange title, description, dates, and gift exchange details.

Invite — add more participants to your gift exchange by email, or post a sign up link to social media pages. If you’d like to add more participants, you may do so up until the date of the exchange.

Participants — view list of participants and their status in the exchange, with option to Accept for those people who have not done that, as well as the option to set Draw Restrictions in exchanges when names will be drawn. Organizer will also see the option to expand the user information box for any participant to Send Message, Decline, Remove, Send Gift Exchange Link and Assign.

Privacy + Options — set options to protect the privacy of participants by limiting messaging, contact information, birthday alerts to the members of the group, as well as email notifications for exchange related information.

Since names will not be drawn to assign specific matches, please visit the Privacy & Options tab to check the option: Do not draw names automatically after the sign up date. This will allow the organizer to control the gift assignment numbers.

Draw Restrictions — set Draw Restrictions to prevent participants from drawing certain others (i.e., spouses, siblings, etc.) This option is mostly used for a Secret Santa style gift exchange in which names will be drawn.

Have Some Secret Santa Fun:

There are lots of awesome features right on your exchange page to encourage your group to get into the gifting spirit!

Post anything you’d like to say when you click to Share Something With The Group. Your message will be shown on the Activity Feed for the gift exchange, and participants can reply and add to the conversation. Participants will be notified by email to make sure everyone gets the news!

Organizers also have the option to Post A Poll to allow the group to vote on options related to the exchange (like should we serve cake or cookies for dessert at the party?)

Make sure your participants make some wishes for their wish list as they Discover Great Gifts to share ideas for their perfect gift!

Happy Elfing!

SecretSanta.com gift exchanges are now powered by the Elfster Secret Santa Generator! There are two ways to join a gift exchange — by email invitation or using a link shared by the organizer:

Invitation Email: The invitation email lets you know you have been invited to join in a gift exchange event and who invited you, as well as details for the gift exchange.

To see more about the gift exchange event and to reply to the invitation, just click to RSVP. You may then register your Elfster account or log in to an existing account.

Invitation Link: An organizer may post an invitation link on a social media group page or by share that link in an email they generate. Click on the link to see more details about the exchange, RSVP and register your Elfster account or log in to an existing account.

As a registered member of Elfster, you can manage all of your gift exchange events by clicking on the Gift Exchanges tab on the top of your homepage, or create a Wish List to share your wishes with your exchange group.

Gift Exchange Page: As a participant the gift exchange page includes the following:

  1. Event information: All the event information (type of gift exchange, time, date, location, price range, etc.)

  2. Participants: View who is participating, who is not and who is undecided.

  3. Activity: On this page, you may chat with your group to send along any fun, interesting or informative comments, which may be made anonymously for an added twist, view wishes made by members of the group and see Secret Q&A activity for other participants.

  4. Gallery: Once names have been drawn you can come back here to see thank you messages and gift pictures that have been shared with the group.

Create a Wish List:  The Wish Lists page allows you to enter your gift wish list, which can be viewed by other participants in your exchange to give them great gift ideas. Gifts may be added by Wishing for any item found on our Shop pages, copying the URL for an item from any website, or by using the Text option to write in your own wish.

TIP: Submitting wish lists is a great way to make sure all the participants receive a gift they will enjoy as well as assisting the Secret Santas in the gift buying process.

Number Assignment: At the party, the organizer assigns you a number for the Yankee Swap gift exchange. This number designates when your turn will come. For example, if you are assigned number 3, you will be the third person to take a turn in the game.

Before you start planning a Yankee Swap Gift Exchange of your own, you may want to consider these factors:

Guidelines: The rules and terms of your Yankee Swap game should be clearly drawn to insure a smooth gift exchange. You always want to avoid a situation, for example, where someone goes all out for his or her assigned person only to get stiffed in the process.

Every group has its own definition of what constitutes an appropriate gift, so make sure all participants contribute gifts that are in good taste (and of course fun and entertaining). If everyone brings a well thought out gift the game can become a really memorable holiday event.

Each gift should be attractively wrapped with no nametag. There’s no fun in getting a gift you can’t unwrap (cheap gift bags are frowned upon).

Secrecy: It is important that the gifts be placed in an area where few people can see guests dropping off gifts. All efforts should be made to hide who brought which gift.

Happy Gifting!