11 Family Gift Exchange Ideas For The Holiday Season

Get some creative ideas about gifts that you will exchange with your family members.

Reviewed by Ronald Hoang, Relationship & Family Counselor Ronald Hoang Ronald HoangRelationship & Family Counselor linkedin_iconyoutube_icon
Written by , Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Sneha Tete Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
Edited by , MA (English Literature) Madhumati Chowdhury MA (English Literature) Experience: 7 years
Fact-checked by , MA Gracia Odile MA Experience: 3 years
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It is officially the holiday season! Now, you must be scrambling for family gift exchange ideas. Well, don’t worry! We have got you covered.

During the festive season, it is customary for every member of the family to purchase a gift for each other. While getting gifts from every member of your family may sound thrilling, it could become tiring (and expensive) for all parties involved. This is where family gift exchange comes in handy.

Organizing a gift exchange is always a great move in bringing people closer without busting the bank, whether it is for the holidays or just to make everyone feel adored and appreciated. Keep reading if you are planning a big family gift exchange and need some inspiration for thoughtful gifts.

What Is A Family Gift Exchange?

A family gift exchange
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A family gift exchange is a twist on the traditional gift-giving ritual. It is also known as Secret Santa, where each family member is assigned one person for whom they have to get a gift.

It takes away the burden of buying presents for all and makes gift-giving more meaningful as everyone gets to focus on buying that one perfect gift for the person assigned. Introducing new rituals during celebratory holidays offers a chance to inject freshness into the routine. Ronald Hoang, a Relationship And Family Counselor, says, “Rituals, especially around the celebratory holidays, are meaningful and sentimental. Changing things up can be a healthy, fun, and an exciting way to shake up the usual routine, create new memories, and maybe even start new family rituals.”

If you have a large family and are looking for fun and creative ideas to celebrate Christmas this year, why not go for a holiday gift exchange?

Why Should You Do A Family Gift Exchange For Christmas?

Here are a few reasons it is time you planned a gift exchange party this year:

1. Bring Down Your Holiday Spending

The holiday season is super fun, but we have to admit we tend to overrun our budgets by buying Christmas presents for everyone in the extended family.

Having a family gift exchange instead of buying gifts for each family member helps cut down the budget. This is a great way to decrease your holiday spending without cutting down the fun.

According to a Forbes study on 3000 general population Americans, 43.6% of the respondents expected to spend more than $750 on gifts. Only 39% of the respondents preferred funding the holiday expenses from the cash in hand. Around 50% would rely on credit cards, take money on debt, or dip into savings balances.

2. You Get To Buy A Personalized Gift

Since you have to buy a gift for only one person, you can think of personalized and thoughtful options.  You can follow them on social media to get an idea about their lifestyle or learn about their interests and hobbies. It is exciting to buy someone you care about a unique present they are sure to like! If you do not know your assignee too well, you can give them a gift card or a gift basket filled with traditional Christmas goodies.

3. You Can Buy Better Gifts

Christmas gift exchange
Image: Shutterstock

One of the biggest benefits of a family gift exchange is that you get to splurge a little bit to buy a gift for one person instead of several cheap ones for all family members.

For instance,  you have allocated $200 as your Christmas gifting budget. Instead of buying multiple routine gifts, you can now invest the entire amount in buying one unique, high-quality, and thoughtful gift.

4. Less Stress

Some may stress out on the thought of purchasing a gift for each family member.  This can dampen the holiday spirit, especially if you are part of a large family.

With a family gift exchange, you no longer have the responsibility or the subsequent stress of buying many gifts. You can focus on getting that one perfect gift for your assignee and relax.

5. Family Gift Exchanges Are Fun!

There is a personal element involved that makes gift giving more than just a formal holiday ritual. It is fun to discuss your gift ideas with others and go shopping together to buy the gifts. Family gift exchanges double the festive fun as you go out of your way to find funny gifts for your loved ones.

Shauna, a blogger, shared their experience of trying a new gift exchange theme for Christmas in their personal blog. They write, “Our family has decided on this ridiculously fun one: find out what ‘holidays’ are on your birthday and pick a gift related to that holiday.” They further add about the budget, “We lowered our price limit to $15 (plus or minus) so every person could bring a gift (not just as a couple), including the teenagers if they wanted to be involved…. Our family can’t wait to see what holiday everyone chooses and how they decide to turn that into a gift! Some days have just a few viable options, but others have a crazy variety (i).”

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Create a festive atmosphere during the gift exchange. Play holiday music, decorate the space, and wear festive attire. Setting the right mood enhances the overall experience!

Skip the routine gifts of cutlery sets and wine bottles this year. Instead, get creative this holiday season with these 10 exciting gift exchange ideas for your family!

11 Fun And Exciting Family Gift Exchange Ideas

Family opens a surprising gift
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1. Trivia Gift Exchange

If your family is filled with trivia buffs, why not set up a fun trivia gift exchange session? Divide the family members into two (or multiple) teams. To exchange gifts, you may follow any of these ideas:

  • The team that gets all the answers right gets to choose a present first.
  • Members can compete individually, and the one with the highest score gets to pick their gift first, followed by others.

2. Pajama Party

You can arrange a pajama-themed get-together for all family members. Everyone has to share their pajama sizes, and each family member has to buy a new set of pajamas for their assigned person as a fun gift! You may ask people for their color and style preferences before buying or choose to surprise them with your choice.

3. Family Heirlooms

Family heirloom gift at Christmas
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Family heirlooms make for some heartwarming gifts to share with your loved ones. The heirloom need not be something as exotic as a 200-year old diamond necklace. It can be a pair of crystal earrings, a china teapot that your grandmother once owned, a whiskey aging barrel, or ornaments.

You may also exchange a collection of items like an inflatable hot tub, golf cart, jet skis, backyard game sets, drones with video cameras, or a Costco membership card with your family members. Each member gets to use the item for a year and swap them during next Christmas.

4. Themed Gift Exchange

To make your family gift exchange even more exciting, choose a theme in advance and ask everyone to buy gifts corresponding to the theme. For example, if your theme is “Family Favorite Christmas Movies,” you could buy any gift that has got some connection with the Christmas movies your entire family loves to watch. And why not play a classic game with your family to add to the holiday mood?

5. Re-Gift

For a truly budget-friendly family gift exchange, you can decide to re-gift items instead of buying new ones. Everyone has certain items lying in their houses that they do not use. However, these could be useful to someone else. Inform your family members in advance that instead of buying new gifts, everyone should re-gift a new, unused item they already have. Cut down the budget even further by presenting unwrapped gifts and save on the cost of wrapping paper

6. Secondhand Finds

Secondhand gifts
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Another way of cutting down the budget on holiday gifting is to buy secondhand items for gifting. You will get awesome secondhand and vintage items like jewelry, toolsets, books, and pieces of furniture in garage sales or on sites like eBay. Each family member can try to find a secondhand item their assigned person would love.

7. Ugly Holiday Sweater

Does your family have a healthy sense of humor? How about exchanging ugly holiday sweaters this season to add some laughter and fun to your celebration? Ask everyone to share their sweater sizes and receive the ugliest, most appalling holiday sweater as a gift!

This is a cute and exciting way to share some laughter with your loved ones during Christmas. A word of caution, though: go for it only if you have a quirky family that likes practical jokes!

8. Make A Unique Gift

This year, ditch the gift buying process and make your loved ones a unique gift. Do you love to write? Why not compose a Christmas poem dedicated to your favorite aunt and record it in your voice to make an awesome musical gift? The artists in your family can paint a portrait or create a handmade piece of jewelry to gift to their assigned person. Hand-knitted scarves, homemade candles, soaps, recycled decorative pieces are also great gift ideas.

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Emphasize the importance of thoughtful gifts. Encourage family members to consider the recipient’s preferences, hobbies, and interests when choosing gifts. This makes exchanging gifts a more rewarding experience for everyone.

Everyone has unique skills waiting to be converted into wonderful gifts. So, put your skills to use to make a heartwarming gift for your loved one.

9. Edible Homemade Gifts

Edible homemade gifts
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Edible homemade gifts are a fun Christmas gift exchange idea for a large family. After all, who would not love to gorge on some delicious old-fashioned holiday treats prepared lovingly at home!

Plan a pre-Christmas bake-a-thon in your home, invite your extended family, and bake a ton of goodies to gift to your loved ones for Christmas. Enjoy these yummy snacks while playing a gift exchange game to make the best of the holidays.

10. Ornament Exchange

It is a good idea to gift your loved ones with something really meaningful that will remind them of you everytime they see it. These gifts are sure to stay with you for years to come!
Invite friends and family to participate by drawing the names of their recipients in secret. Each participant selects or crafts a personalized ornament that reflects the recipient’s interests or memories shared. On the designated exchange day, gather in a cozy setting, and everyone takes turns presenting their thoughtfully chosen ornaments. The joy of unwrapping these miniature treasures, laden with sentimental value, creates lasting memories.

11. Gift An Experience

Instead of buying an item to gift, you can choose to gift an experience they are sure to enjoy.

For instance, book your fashion-conscious cousin a session at her favorite spa for a rejuvenating experience. You can buy your nephews tickets to that movie they can’t wait to watch. Similarly, you can book a resort for your entire family or go on a vacation for the holiday season. They will always cherish these experiences.

With these family gift exchange ideas, you will not only be exchanging gift items but also showering love on one another. After all, festivals are about loving your family and friends and making them feel special. While an ugly holiday sweater is a go-to gifting item, edible homemade gifts can fill your folks’ tummies with immense love, too. Take some inspiration from the above ideas and pick the ones that have won your heart. Above all, make sure you and your family have a fun-filled and enjoyable festive season.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the five-gift rule for Christmas?

The five-gift rule suggests that the first 4 gifts are related to something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. The 5th gift you can select from your personal knowledge of that person’s likes and dislikes. Something that is your way of telling them how much they mean to you.

Is a return gift important?

While a return gift can be anything as per your budget, occasion, or preference, it is not mandatory. However, it is important in being a token of love and gratitude for the people who make your life and occasion special.

What to gift someone who does everything for me?

Your time is the most important gift you can give to that special someone who does everything for you.

Key Takeaways

  • A family gift exchange is a gift-giving ritual where each family member is assigned one person for whom they have to get a gift.
  • Gift exchanges can help you find better and more personalized gifts without the burden of overspending or stress.
  • You can make your family gift exchange fun and exciting by adding a theme or deciding on gifting edibles or family heirlooms.

If you are thinking of some gift ideas for the holidays, this video is for you. It contains information on how you can win the hearts of people without going overboard.

Personal Experience: Source

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Ronald Hoang

Ronald HoangRelationship & Family Counselor

Ronald Hoang is a clinical counselor/psychotherapist based in Sydney, Australia, with close to a decade of experience. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology from Macquarie University and a postgraduate degree in counseling from the Australian College of Applied Professions. He has received training in Emotionally Focused Therapy, Post-Milan Systemic Family Therapy, Gottman Method, Play Therapy Dimensions, and Child...read full bio

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