Yankee Swap Rules

Before you get started with your next gift exchange, it's good to refresh your memory and remember the Yankee Swap rules. If you've never played before and want to find out how it all works, then it's even more important to get yourself familiarized with the rules and looking at the example of how to play section will surely come in handy. Rules of Yankee Swap are not complicated. There's just a few that are mandatory, and the rest are optional that you may or may not want to include in your game to make it more lively and fun.

Mandatory Rules

Let's start with the mandatory rules. It is recommended to make sure these ones are followed because otherwise the process of swapping gifts may not go down as well as intended. Even though these are mandatory, you could modify them as long as the modified version still addresses the point for which the rule was created (See description of each rule).

Rule #1: Bring A Gift To The Party

This one goes without saying really, but you would be surprised how many people actually forget to bring a gift with them when they show up to the Christmas party. This is why it is very important for the party planner to remind everyone days prior to the Christmas party that the Yankee Swap will be taking place and if you show up without a gift - you can't play!

Rule #2: Spend Within The Gift Budget

Although it may seem like a common sense to spend about $20 or under for your present, often rules will include a price range, or specified price that you must keep in mind when shopping for gifts. The idea is that you want to have presents of comparable value in the pile, even though some of them may be less desirable. If there is a budget set in pre announce rules, abide by it.

Rule #3: Open Or Swap Gifts Orderly

The order of the players must be determined. Who goes first? Who goes next? etc... This can be easily done by drawing numbers from a bowl or a pile. Numbers need to be crumpled so that no one can see what the actual number is on the piece of paper. Once everyone has their turn determined players can align in a circle and the opening and swapping can commence.

Rule #4: Do Not Swap/Steal Back Gifts Immediately

As the game progresses, it is inevitable that a gift will be stolen away from a player. That player has a choice to open a gift or steal another gift. This rule prohibits you from stealing back a gift that was taken away from you just now. You can still swap/steal it later if you get another turn, but you can not do it immediately. If this rule is not observed, how can you prevent an endless cycle of two players swapping the gift back and forth that they both want?

Optional Rules

Just like any other game, Yankee Swap has grown into a diverse Christmas party past time with everyone creating fun alternative rules to make the gift exchange more fun, full of excitement and laughter. Here are some of the popular variations that our readers reported having used over the years. See which ones you like and don't forget to contact us and let us know about the ones that you have used and well add them to the list if we don't have those already.

* Timer Ending

Usually in larger groups, once all the gifts are opened the game ends. What if you wanted to extend the amount of swapping that takes place to make the game more exciting? This is one of those rules that smaller or larger groups will enjoy, because it gets very exciting to see time count down and players swap and steal gifts in a hurry. How does it work? You set a timer, say 3 minutes and until that time is up everyone swaps and steals in a row. Try it!

* First In Last Out

For the games where the swapping ends when all the gifts are opened the first player may never get to swap or steal. This rule allows the very first player to do the final swap after all the gifts have been opened. If this rule is implemented, being first is considered to be the luckiest spot in the draw, because you get the power of picking last!

* Ten More Swaps

Similar to the "Timer Ending", this variation has an arbitrary number of swaps follow after the last gift has been opened. Now although the name of this rules says "ten", it does not have to be. You can set the number to anything the group agrees to.

* Thee And Out

Three and out is a common Yankee Swap rule, where is a gift is stolen three times, or if the player gets stolen from three times, they are out. The player in question gets to keep the gift that they got swapped in with. Again, the number three is just a suggestion, and you can change it in your version.

* Stay Within Theme

Sometimes rules can include a theme. This means all gift have to be part of some common theme that is pre-arranged by the group and announced by the organizer. Common themes are edible treats like cookies and baked goods, re-gifts for items you received at Christmas and do not desire (this one is usually planned after Christmas as opposed to common Yankee Swaps that takes prior to holiday).

Download Yankee Swap Rules

To keep a copy of these rules handy, you may use any of the following links to download the rules, print or modify them to your liking


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