Being Boston born, raised, and permanently resided, Yankee Swaps have been a holiday highlight and tradition my whole life. Not familiar? A Yankee Swap (also known as White Elephant Gift Exchange, Parcel Pass, Dirty Santa, Gift Swap, etc.) is a holiday gift swapping game where a group of people purchase one gift for their annual holiday gathering. The group then all draw numbers (1 through however many attendees there are) and select one mystery gift to unwrap in order. Based on their number in the order, the person whose turn it is can keep the item or “swap” (read: take) any gift that was unwrapped before them.
It sounds cruel…because is kind of is! I’ve participated in a lot of Yankee Swaps, between friends, family, and coworkers. The Swap is usually entertaining and enjoyable but this can totally depend on the quality of the gifts brought to the swap and the best practices of the game. Which leads me to this post. So let’s dive in, shall we?
Here are my Do’s and Don’ts For The Perfect Yankee Swap Experience:
- Set your price limit up front. Depending on the type of crowd and number of people involved, the price limit could change drastically. For the majority of Swaps I’ve participated in, the average is usually somewhere between $15 – $25.
- Yankee Swap gifts should be crowd pleasers; something everyone would like to receive. Most of the time these are practical gifts, believe it or not. Which leads me to my next tip…
- No booze. I know that a wine basket is really festive and the locally craft brewed winter warmer beers at Whole Foods are exactly the price limit, but booze isn’t a gift everyone loves and can actually be insensitive at times. Just don’t do it.
- Another note on crowd pleasing gifts – this means absolutely no kids toys, plants, clothing, or gift cards (with just one exception, see below).
- No homemade gifts. I love DIY just as much as the next craftgrrl but anything homemade will go unappreciated at a Yankee Swap (unless it’s a specific Christmas Cookie themed swap or Knit Something Magnificent themed swap). Save these thoughtful, time intensive gifts for a specific person. They are much too intimate and special for a Yankee Swap.
- Bring a gift you would want to receive back. It’s considerate and adds more quality items to The Swap. Also, it goes without saying, regifting anything into a Yankee Swap is repugnant.
- Don’t go over or under the price limit. It’s set for a reason and people can tell when you do that.
- Don’t be afraid to be cutthroat! I will leave my grandmother high and dry with a set of wrenches if she has the artisanal salami collection I want. Being competitive only adds to the fun, it’s called a Swap after all!
- Always have a booby prize for the person who ends up with the worst gift. Invariably someone is going to end up with a Chia Pet or a Snuggie, and when they do it will be nice to console them with some Ghirardelli hot cocoa.
Now that you have Yankee Swap etiquette down, here are my suggestions for perfect Yankee Swap gifts (these suggestions are assuming a $25 price limit):
- Cooler on Wheels – This was the hot item at my family Yankee Swap this year and we ended up with it! This is perfect because anyone can use it – the tailgater, the foodie, the camper, the BBQer, the beach bum.
- A Nice Tupperware Set – I know, overtly simple and boring but still, this was the second most popular thing we fought over at my family Yankee Swap this year (and we ended up with it!). This set has locking lids and a range of sizes. Perfect for anyone who is always going through tupperware, like us.
- Movie Gift Pack – Load up some movie candy, popcorn, and gift card to your local movie theater chain and you have an awesome gift anyone would like. This, by the way, is the only instance where a gift card is acceptable.
- Hot Cocoa Gift Pack – We made up one of these for my family Yankee Swap: we took our favorite hot cocoa, two adorable mugs, and these cute hot cocoa spoons and created a little gift set. It was perfect!
- Fancy Popcorn Set – Who doesn’t love Moose Munch, c’mon now.
- Local Sports Team Blanket – For us, it would be a Patriots blanket. Someone brought one of these to my family Yankee Swap and it was a hot item!
- iPhone Speaker Dock or Bluetooth Speaker – This is a great gift for a swap where kids and teens are involved. Everyone has an iPhone and sometimes headphones just don’t cut it when you want to have a dance party in your room.
- One Year Subscription to a Cool Magazine (online or print) – The emphasis here is on cool; I’m not talking TIME or People here, I’m talking about unique and specific interest mags like Ready Made, Beer Advocate, or The Art of Eating. You could really get creative with this depending on the crowd too (ex. foodies, beer snobs, college football fanatics, etc.)
- Dunkin Donuts Coffee – It is insane how many eyes will get gouged out for this stuff.
- Fran’s Chocolates’ Coconut Gold Bars – The unbelievably coveted, pimped by Bobby Flay, delicious fancy candy bars. I’ll tell you a secret – I tried to buy some for John for Christmas this year and they were sold out. Can’t get them anywhere, they are that good.
- An awesome Adult Coloring Book and coloring supplies – Super trendy and fun!
- A Classic Cookbook – My favorites/suggestions: The complete America’s Test Kitchen cookbook, King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion, Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here For The Food, or The Moosewood Cookbook.
- The First Season of A Really Great TV Show – The first season will get anyone hooked if the show is good enough. My top picks: Portlandia, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Orphan Black, 30 Rock, or Dexter.
- When in doubt, Lottery Tickets.
I hope you’ve enjoying my tips, tricks, and suggestions. Report back with your best swaps!