Frequently Asked Questions

We often receive emails with questions regarding the Yankee Swap gift exchange. Since some of these questions are repetitive, we're putting most frequently asked questions and answers in the list here on this page so that visitors to our website can easily find all the answers that they may bee seeking. If you have a question that has not been covered here, please don't hesitate to contact us on our contact page so we can answer you and expand the FAQ section.

Users Often Asked:

Why is it called the "Yankee Swap"?

It's a common belief that the name "Yankee Swap" stems from the nineteenth century United States civil war era when confederate and union soldiers exchanged prisoners. Norther, union army and it's service men were regarded and Yankees at the time, so some argue that the name for the popular Christmas gift exchange has roots in civil war era of the United States of America, but the reality is different. Although it is not likely that the definite proof can be produced for decisively determining the origin of the name of this tradition, the nick name "Yankee Swap" points to early twentieth century, when immigrants noticed natives playing a Christmas game of exchanging unwanted gifts. While this game was at the time known as a "White Elephant", immigrants watching the spectacle gave it a new name when they saw the Yanks swapping gifts. Read on more about the history of the name.

When did the Yankee Swap tradition begin?

Most recounts and examination of other Christmas gift exchange traditions points to more likely origin of the Yankee Swap in the beginning of the 20th century New York City. Although this claim can not be fully verified, currently it is the most accepted answer when it comes to dating the beginning of the holiday gift exchange.

Is Yankee Swap only played in the USA?

Yes and No. While Yankee Swap is predominantly an American tradition, it has it's counterparts that are very similar in nature and are popular in Europe, Asia Australia and even South America. The Term "Yankee Swap" most commonly comes up in the USA, but also is known to be used in parts of UK and Australia.

When is Yankee Swap played?

Usually Yankee Swap party coincides with the Christmas celebration. It is common for corporate and business events to be booked to take place before Christmas, often a week or two ahead of Christmas, while large families do their Yankee Swap exchange after Christmas dinner on Christmas day. It is also not unheard of to do the Yankee Swap after Christmas. These post Christmas parties are often themed as re-gifts or otherwise known as "One man's trash / Another mans treasure" parties where guests get rid of and swap the unwanted Christmas gifts they received during the season.

How do you play Yankee Swap?

While you should check out the rules and go through a mock play example, for sake of simplicity and summarizing the game play, this is what happens: You get invited to a Yankee Swap and are told how much to spend on a gift and what type of gifts (theme) are accepted. Everyone shows up to the party, bring their well wrapped gift and places it in the gift pile anonymously. Organizer draws numbers to determine player's order. Gifts then are opened in order of players and swapped with other players until a predetermined game stopper occurs, which most commonly is a condition like "When all gifts are opened" or "after all gifts are opened and 10 minutes of swapping has taken place with a timer". The gift you end up at the end of the game is what you go home with.

What are the basic rules?

The most important rules are: 1. Bring a well wrapped gift within the budget and theme. 2. Place the gift in a pile anonymously. 3. Determine order of player. 4. Open or Swap gifts until the end of game.

What is a good Yankee Swap gift?

The answer to this question would depend on the budget and the theme of the gift exchange. If there is none set, then the next best thing would be to spend about 20 to 25 dollars on a hilarious gift. Have a look at the gift selection here

How many people can play the game?

It is recommend to have at least 5 players, but you could get away with less. For practical reasons, it may not be a good idea to have more than 30 players. Large organizations for example do Yankee Swaps within departments and sub-groups.

How do you decide who goes first?

You determine the order of the players by drawing names or having guests pull out random numbers from the bowl where you have placed numbers from one up to number of participants. Everyone keeps their number and shows it during the play.

How does the gift exchange end?

In order for the game to end, a "game stopper" must occur. A game stopper is a predetermined event. Common game stopper for large groups is when all the gifts are opened, while smaller groups may extend the stealing of gifts after all the gifts have been opened by arbitrary number of minutes to extend having fun and getting more swaps in. In the latter, then the time has elapsed, the game will come to and end.

How many times can a gift be stolen?

There is no limit, unless it's specified by the rules of the party. You may choose to implement an option where any time a gift is stolen X number of times, the gift and the guest that ended up with it is out of game. This is one of the popular themes.

What should I bring to Yankee Swap party?

Other than a well wrapped gift, it's often a good idea to bring cookies, baked goods and desserts to the party, but please make sure to confirm with the party organizer.

Is Yankee Swap appropriate for kids?

That would depend on the theme of the gifts. If adult GAG gifts will be par of the exchange or if the gift theme is without limits, it may not be a good idea unless you want to scar the children for life. If there will be kids present, make sure to announce it to the participants so that the gifts are within the PG rating.

How can I make the gift exchange more fun?

Having a great attitude will make things a whole lot better. It is not common for people to get upset about losing the gift they wanted, but one must remember that the point of the Yankee Swap is to have fun, be happy and enjoy each other's company, so make sure you do that!
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