How to Play White Elephant: The Ultimate Guide

How to Play White Elephant

White Elephant, also known as Yankee Swap or Dirty Santa, is a fun and popular gift exchange game played during the holiday season. It brings together friends, family, and coworkers for a memorable and laughter-filled experience. If you’re new to White Elephant and want to learn how to play, this guide will walk you through the steps:

The Rules of White Elephant:

1. Gather a group of participants: To start, invite a group of people who are interested in playing White Elephant. It could be your family members, friends, or colleagues.

2. Set a budget: Decide on a budget for gifts that participants should adhere to when purchasing their presents. This ensures fairness and avoids any uncomfortable situations.

3. Determine the order: Establish an order in which participants will take turns to choose and unwrap their gifts. You can draw names from a hat or use any other random selection method.

4. Wrap the gifts: Ask all participants to wrap their gifts without revealing what’s inside. Creative and humorous gift wrapping is encouraged to add an extra element of excitement.

5. Start the game: Sit in a circle and place all the wrapped gifts in the center. Each participant should have a designated space in front of them to keep their unwrapped gifts.

How the Game Progresses:

1. The first player selects a gift: The player who goes first chooses and unwraps a gift from the center pile. They show the unwrapped gift to everyone.

2. The next player’s turn: The subsequent players have a choice – they can either pick an unwrapped gift from the center pile or “steal” a gift from a previous player.

3. The stealing process: If a player decides to steal a gift, they take it from someone who has already unwrapped a gift. The stolen gift is then replaced with a new one from the center pile.

4. The stealing limit: Usually, a gift can be stolen a maximum of three times. Once a gift has been stolen three times, it is “frozen,” and no one can take it anymore.

5. Continue taking turns: The game continues with each player having the same options – selecting a new gift from the center or stealing an unwrapped gift from someone else.

Game Completion:

1. The final turn: When all participants have had their turns, the first player (who went first) gets the opportunity for a final steal. They can choose any gift, including the one they initially unwrapped.

2. Game ends: Once the final steal has been made, the game comes to an end, and each player keeps the gift they have at that moment.

3. Unveiling the gifts: After the game ends, everyone can unwrap their gifts and share in the joy of discovering what they got. Laughter and surprise are common reactions during this stage.

4. Optional rules: If you prefer, you can establish additional rules to customize the game. Some options include imposing a time limit for unwrapping, allowing players to peek at unwrapped gifts, or setting themes for the gifts.

Tips for an Amazing White Elephant Game:

  • Encourage participants to get creative with their gift choices. Funny, unique, and unexpected presents make the game more entertaining.
  • Remind participants that the goal is to have fun and not to get attached to any particular gift. Encourage laughter and good-natured competition.
  • Consider hosting a White Elephant game as part of a holiday party, potluck dinner, or other festive gathering. It’s an excellent way to bring people together and add joy to any celebration.


Playing White Elephant is a fantastic way to create lasting memories and enjoy the holiday season with loved ones. By following the rules, encouraging creativity, and fostering a festive atmosphere, you’re sure to have a wonderful time playing this entertaining gift exchange game. So gather your friends, family, or coworkers, set a budget, and let the laughter begin!

Frequently Asked Questions For How To Play White Elephant: The Ultimate Guide

How Do You Play White Elephant?

To play White Elephant, participants bring wrapped gifts and take turns either choosing a new gift or stealing one from someone else.

What Are The Rules Of White Elephant?

In White Elephant, players usually set a spending limit for gifts and establish a turn order. Stealing gifts and having fun is encouraged!

Can You Steal Your Own Gift In White Elephant?

No, in White Elephant, typically, you cannot steal your own gift. The excitement lies in stealing from others!

How Many Times Can A Gift Be Stolen In White Elephant?

In most White Elephant games, a gift can be stolen a maximum of three times to keep the game moving and ensure everyone gets a chance at winning.

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