For many years, my family played a rowdy game of Dirty Santa on Christmas Eve. It was my favorite night of the year. Family and friends would come over (we usually had anywhere between 15 – 25 people), and the most intense game was played that lasted for hours. We took it VERY seriously. Insanity doesn’t even begin to cover it. I come from a loud, crazy Italian family, and it was a cut throat competition just to see how much you could piss other people off.
So I am strongly suggesting you put together your own Dirty Santa party this year. It is really easy and requires very little set up. I’m going to give you a quick run down of the rules and our variations.
Everyone brings one wrapped present
Each person playing has his or her own gift to bring. That way everyone goes home with a gift. For some reason, this didn’t make sense to some people. Usually a price limit is set. I think ours was maybe $50. I’ll get to some of the best gifts to bring according to our family. To be honest, the most popular gift was always the salami that my uncle brought every year, but I am aware that wouldn’t go over as well in most other families. Of course it is always best to keep the gifts gender neutral, but it sure is fun when your uncle opens up a makeup kit that is meant for the 13 year olds. Fun story – that year I ended up with the makeup kit AND $20 because no one would take the makeup from him because it kept him out of the game and he couldn’t stand it. We were ruthless. The stories I could tell…
The Way to Play
You put all the wrapped gifts in a pile. Everyone draws a number. Number one picks a gift from the pile and opens it. Then number two can either pick a gift or steal number one’s gift. If number two steals number one’s gift, number one gets to pick a new gift. Then number three goes. Three can either pick a new gift, or steal number one or number two’s gift. And so on and so on until everyone has gone and all of the gifts have been opened. *Hint: Low numbers are the best. If you are 1, 2 or 3 out of say 10 or 15, you are going to play the most. Being last is the worst, except that you get your pick of any gift.
Stealing is what makes this game fun. Some times there is a 3 steal limit. We didn’t do that. First of all, it is way too hard to keep up with, and with so many inebriated adults, there was just no way. Plus, the more times you steal, the longer the game goes. We would have certain gifts that would bounce from person to person to person. Do not be afraid to steal. We played this last year at work and no one wanted to steal. I was the ruthless bitch that took everyone’s gifts and laughed. No one else had my training. The more into this you get, the more fun it is. Also – if someone steal’s your gift, you can’t steal that gift right back. You have to wait until the next turn. (So if number three steals your gift and you are number two, you can’t steal that gift immediately from number three again).
The Mystery Gift
A fun twist to our game – we had a mystery gift. Someone who wasn’t involved in the game bought a gift, wrapped it and brought it to my mom (it counted as one of our gifts). If you picked the mystery gift, you didn’t get to open it. But you did have to do the mystery gift dance. The very last gift to be opened was they mystery gift.
There are some strategy things you need to keep in mind. Never let them know you like a gift. It is the quickest way to get your gift stolen. Also, it really isn’t about what you want. If you want to play it right, it is about what others want. One year I ended up with a silver champagne bucket (I was like 16) because it was what everyone else wanted and I play to win. There was a lot of yelling in our games, sometimes people hid their gifts so others would forget about them. Honestly, this is breaking the rules. You can’t hide your gift. They have to be out for everyone to see.
So now on to some of the best gifts for Dirty Santa. You do need to consider the group you are playing with. If it is all women, go for more feminine gifts. Another thing to consider is the ages – my friend and I played (we started at 13 and went until we were 19 I think), so my mom always had an age appropriate gift for one of us and someone else (my aunt or grandmother usually) had another age appropriate gift for the other. It can be hard to accommodate for a large age range, but it can be done! Also you could totally do this themed – all books or all kitchen related or something.
I am going with under $50 for these gifts.
One year we had a throw blanket (actually we probably had one several years), but it was hugely popular because everyone loves a blanket!
Some years we would have themed gift baskets – like one year I remember we had a movie themed basket that had a movie theater gift card and popcorn and I don’t remember what else. So if you don’t want to actually create your own basket, something like this margarita mix box would be really good. You could also put something like this together on your own and include a bottle of inexpensive tequila as well. You could do this for Moscow mules and include some mule mugs, or a bottle of wine and wine glasses. To be honest, alcohol gifts are always a good idea.
Food type gifts, especially sets like olive oil, hot sauces and spices were always popular too. A BBQ sauce set would be fun for the guys who like to grill. You could also do this salsa & guacamole starter kit.
Christmas decor and items were also super popular. A really cute, nice ornament would be perfect! Another idea would be something like a Christmas platter (or not Christmas, that would work too).
The good thing about mittens is that they fit everyone. The same can be said for a scarf or hat, which makes any of these great picks.
Another good gift for just about anyone is a bluetooth speaker. And you can get them at just about any price. Charlie and I use ours all of the time, and I know my parents do too.
Gift cards are also always a good gift – Target, a restaurant, Starbucks. While a gift card is great, 15 gift cards is not fun. So I personally think more real gifts, less gift cards.
So now that you see how crazy my family is, I hope this helps with your own Dirty Santa party!