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Instructions to Play Dirty Santa Game

Vrinda Varnekar Aug 17, 2020
Regardless of its name, this game is far from 'dirty', and is a lot of fun, especially at a family get-together or a Christmas party at work. Read on to know how to play the Dirty Santa game.

Did You Know?

The reason this game has dirty in the title is that it involves taking, or stealingthers' gifts, mostly against their will!
Are you tired of having the same Secret Santa tradition every year? Do you want to try something new, something that involves presents and is just as fun? If yes, then we are here to tell you all about the Dirty Santa game.
If you're hearing about a 'Dirty Santa' game for the first time, it's pretty obvious what you're thinking, but this game is far from dirty, really! In fact, it can be played by people of all ages together, so you don't really have to put the kids to bed for this one!
It's a lot of fun, and is a great way to create memories with your old friends, new friends, colleagues, and of course, family members. The best part is that you can alter a few rules to this game if you wish, and it won't change the entire structure of the game.

Things To Do Before The Game

Obviously, you're going to be playing this game at a party, and you're probably done planning with your party by now. However, there are a few other things which you need to do BEFORE the game, so as to make sure it's a great success.
Decide upon a theme for your Dirty Santa game. Are people of all ages going to participate? Then decide upon a theme that bodes well with all people. Your theme actually is an instruction to the participants about what gifts they have to bring. Homemade gifts? Festive gifts? Books? Gag presents?. Decide the theme and make sure all know about it.
It is very natural that the amount of money spent on the gifts by the participants is going to vary― some gifts are going to be more expensive than the others. To save anyone from getting embarrassed, set a price limit.
For instance, if you decide that the price limit is $25, no gift should exceed that. Similarly, you can also set a minimum price amount if you know there are some cheapskates attending!
Along with your invite, also make sure that each participant knows that his/her gift should be wrapped very attractively so that other participants feel like choosing it. Also, make sure that the wrapped gifts betray no hint about what is actually inside.

Instructions To Play

Step 1

Once all guests have arrived, have everyone place their gifts on a table from where they are visible to each and every person in the room― whether it is a participant or an observer. Though you can always add the latecomers' gifts after they arrive, it is best to avoid confusion by beginning the game only once everyone is present and ready to start playing.

Step 2

Write numbers from 1-the number of participants on chits of paper, fold them up and keep them in a bowl together, as you will need these for drawing lots. For the sake of convenience, let us assume that there are 20 people participating. So, you need 20 chits, each chit containing a number from 1 to 20.

Step 3

Have each participant, including you (if you're playing) pick a chit and announce what number it is. If people feel like exchanging their drawn numbers before the actual game begins, allow that too. Announcing the numbers well in advance avoids confusion. Have every participant pick a chit, read it, and say "I'm number 10!" or whatever number it might be.

Step 4

Now the actual game begins! The person who has picked number 1 has to go to the pile of the incredible looking wrapped presents and pick one of them. After he picks the one he wants, he has to open it and show it to everyone present so that everyone knows what the gift is.

Step 5

The next participant, #2, has to then either select a present from the pile, or ask Number 1 for the present he picked. If he picks #1's present, #1 gets to pick another gift from the pile. #3 then can select a present from the pile, or ask #1 or #2 for their present.
Thus the game goes on, with each player picking an unopened gift, or asking for one of the previously opened presents. This continues until all 20 players have a gift each.

Step 6

If you want, once #20 is done with choosing his gift, you can let #1 have a chance to exchange his gift with someone else, or keep the one he has. There you go! Your game is successfully over!

Gift Retirement

If no tab is kept on how many times one present is swapped, the game would practically go on forever and also get really boring. For that purpose, if a gift has been swapped three times, it should be retired from the game. Now, this does not mean that the third person to ask for one present gets it.
It means that if for instance #4 gets one particular gift three times after it having passed to other participants in the middle, he gets to keep it, and he is out of the game. However, it must be remembered that a gift cannot keep getting passed back and forth between just two participants, or it is unfair to the other players.

Different Ways To Play Dirty Santa

With Cards

Instead of picking numbers from a bowl of chits, you can also try the Dirty Santa game with cards. Two decks of cards should be individually shuffled well. Decide which deck you want to use for dealing, and every participant is then dealt a card from the same.
The participants then have to, in turn, pick a card from the top of the other deck. The first player to get two matching cards gets to select a gift from the pile, and the game goes on. The only difference here is that instead of a set gift picking order, the one who gets matching cards gets to pick.

With Dice

Similarly, you can play it with dice as well. The first person to roll the same score on both dies gets to pick a gift first, and the game goes on.

With Words

Instead of writing numbers on the chits, you can also try writing sentences, or lyrics of popular holiday songs on them. This variation here is that participants have to wait until everyone has picked a chit, and then pick gifts as per the song's lyrics.
For instance, if one chit contains "Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells", the next person to pick a present would be the one with "Jingle all the way!" This will ensure that your party has a lot of merrymaking, singing, and laughter while this game is going on.
Doesn't this game sound like fun? You can add as many variations as you like, and in fact, you can have this game only for charity too—where every player at the end donates his or her gift to a charity you have decided upon. You can also have this game with old, dirty items instead of new gifts, the idea is to dump your old stuff upon someone else!
There might be misunderstandings or hard feelings between your guests if they don't get their choice of gift. That is when you have to remind them that this game is only to bond with each other and have fun! The real presents, will of course come later! Have fun!