The Official Wild and Wacky White Elephant Rules For a Gift-Stealing Extravaganza!

Whether you call it a White Elephant party or a "Yankee Swap" these rules will keep everyone on the same page.

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White Elephant & Yankee Swap Rules 2024

This year will be my 10th Annual White Elephant Party.  And if I can guarantee one thing, it’ll be that half of us forget how to play and what the “real” rules are.  And while there are plenty of ways to play, these are the most common and my “official” rules for your White Elephant gift swap game.

So, get ready to laugh, steal, and exchange quirky presents in a holiday tradition like no other. Picture a room filled with friends and family, all eagerly eyeing the tantalizingly wrapped gifts in the center. As the game unfolds, laughter echoes through the air as one-of-a-kind treasures and hilarious gag gifts change hands. It’s a test of wit, strategy, and a whole lot of good-natured mischief.

So, buckle up for a gift-stealing adventure like no other. Get ready to learn the rules, embrace the laughter, and make unforgettable memories with your party guests. Whether you’re a seasoned White Elephant pro or a first-timer, this guide will equip you with all the tips and tricks you need to navigate the joyful chaos of this wacky gift exchange.


Rule #1: Gift Gag, Not Price Tag

The essence of the White Elephant party lies in finding the wackiest, most laugh-inducing gifts, not the most expensive ones. Set a budget that everyone can comfortably follow, ensuring that the emphasis is on creativity and humor, not on the price tag.


Rule #2: One Gift, Many Laughs

Each participant brings one wrapped gift to the party. The gifts are placed in a central location, forming the much-anticipated “gift pile” that will soon become a hotbed of excitement and laughter.


Rule #3: Draw Numbers for Order

To determine the gift-giving order, have all participants draw numbers from a hat. The person who draws “1” goes first, followed by the person who draws “2,” and so on.


Rule #4: The Unwrapping Extravaganza

The gift-giving rounds begin with the person who drew number “1.” They pick a gift from the pile and, without unwrapping it, display it for all to see. Laughs, gasps, and curious glances ensue as the mystery gift adds to the party’s anticipation.


Rule #5: Steal the Show!

Here’s where the real fun begins! The person who drew number “2” can either steal the gift from number “1” or choose a new one from the pile. If they steal, number “1” picks a new gift from the pile, and the game continues.


Rule #6: Three Strikes, You're Safe

A gift can only be stolen three times during the game. Once it reaches its third owner, it’s safe, and the current holder gets to keep it.


Rule #7: No Immediate Steal-Backs

To keep the game exciting and everyone on their toes, a person cannot immediately steal back the gift that was just taken from them. They must wait for their next turn to make their move.


Rule #8: Naughty or Nice Gifts

The charm of White Elephant parties lies in their humorous and sometimes risqué nature. Participants can bring gifts that are funny, quirky, or even a little naughty, but it’s essential to keep things light-hearted and in good spirits.


Rule #9: End the Game with a Twist

As the gift-giving rounds progress, the excitement builds. To add a final twist to the game, after the last person has taken their turn, the person who went first (number “1”) gets the option to steal any gift from the pile one last time.


Rule #10: Embrace the Laughter

Remember, the key to a successful White Elephant party is to embrace the laughter, the absurdity, and the joy of giving and receiving unique and sometimes downright hilarious gifts. Let the holiday spirit shine through, and create cherished memories that will be retold for years to come.

10 Unique & Fun White Elephant Party Themes

Now that you know the rules, if you’re looking to host your own party, I put together some fun party theme ideas that add a little something extra to your White Elephant party.

  • Ugly Sweater Extravaganza: Embrace the holiday spirit with an Ugly Sweater-themed White Elephant party. Encourage guests to wear their tackiest, most over-the-top sweaters while bringing equally outrageous gifts to match the theme.

  • 80s Retro Revival: Take a nostalgic trip back in time with an 80s-themed party. Guests can bring gifts inspired by the iconic decade, from neon-colored accessories to classic arcade games.

  • Punny Presents Galore: Let the laughter roll with a Punny Presents Party. Encourage guests to bring gifts with clever puns and witty wordplay for endless eye-rolls.

  • Movie Madness Mashup: Roll out the red carpet for a Movie Madness-themed party. Guests can bring gifts related to their favorite films or movie-themed items, making it a cinematic celebration.

  • Tropical Tiki Treats: Transport your guests to a tropical paradise with a Tiki-themed White Elephant party. Hawaiian shirts, tiki torches, and island-inspired gifts set the stage for a fun and festive time, especially if you live in parts of the country where it’s cold and there’s snow on the ground!

  • Gourmet Goodies and Foodie Frenzy: Satisfy everyone’s taste buds with a Gourmet Goodies and Foodie-themed party. Guests can bring delectable treats, gourmet gadgets, or food-themed novelty gifts.

  • Nerdy Nostalgia: Delight the geeks and nerds with a Nerdy Nostalgia White Elephant party. From classic video games to sci-fi memorabilia, guests can bring gifts that pay homage to their favorite fandoms.  Super Mario, anyone?

  • Pet Palooza: For the animal lovers, host a Pet Palooza-themed party. Guests can bring gifts for their furry friends or pet-themed items that will warm any pet lover’s heart.

  • DIY Delights: Get crafty with a DIY Delights White Elephant party. Guests can bring handmade or do-it-yourself gifts, showcasing their creative skills and adding a personal touch to the festivities.

  • Around the World Adventure: Take a globetrotting journey with an Around the World Adventure party. Guests can bring gifts inspired by different countries or items from their favorite travel destinations, making it a worldly and diverse celebration.


From setting a budget to strategizing your gift choices, you’ll be ready to play every step of the game. Get ready to outwit your friends, steal the most coveted gifts, and, most importantly, laugh and have fun!