Dirty Old Santa
"Life is like a game of cards. The hand that
is dealt you represents determinism; the
way you play it is free will."
- Jawaharlal Nehru"
a gift-trading game that people play a lot this time
of year. Our family calls it "Dirty Santa" but
it goes by many names, like "Chinese Gift Exchange", "White
"Yankee Swap". It's a lot of fun and if you don't
know what I'm referring to you can read more about it at Wikipedia.
One of the big problems with the game is that if you're one
of the first players to choose a gift, and it turns out to
be particularly unappealing, you're hosed. The only thing
you can do is hope a friend has a sense of humor and trades
with you later in the game.
That's why I came up with a small variation I call the Trade
Card. You play the game normally but each player gets a
card, basically a marker that they turn in when they make
a trade. Here's how it works:
(1) The trade card can be used to trade gifts between yourself
and someone else, or to force a trade between two other individuals.
This means if you get a cruddy gift you can trade it away.
It also means, if you use the "three times and it's
you can conspire with others to stick someone with a crappy
gift. (Double fun if it's the person who brought it. Heh-heh-heh.)
(2) You can only trade for someone else's gift if you've
already picked a gift. But, even if you're giftless you can
others to trade gifts whenever you like. This also means
that those with high picking numbers
are now actively involved with the game from start to finish.
(3) For sanity's sake the use of the Trade Card should be
used only after a gift has been picked and all normal
swaps have been made.
If two or more Trade Cards are declared the judge can arbitrarily make a choice
on who trades first.
(4) All Trade Cards must be used before the final gift is
selected. Once the last person places his hand on the last
gift, that's it.
That's all there is to it. My family tried it this past weekend
In fact, the very first gift to be opened, by my older brother, was a fussy little
Needless to say, he liked the Trade Card idea.
In case you're wondering I went home with a lamp, but at I least I didn't
stuck with the candle set.