New This Month

Gift Swap

Just because you have a lot of friends and family members to buy for this year doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune. Many families play gift-swapping games -- and enjoy them even more than receiving (and having to shop for) numerous gifts. Here are some examples. 

The Yankee Swap
Each guest brings one wrapped gift to the swap, regardless of how many people are attending. Participants draw numbers from a bowl to determine the order in which they pick presents. The person who gets number one starts by choosing and unwrapping a package. The person with number two follows and has the choice of keeping and unwrapping his or her gift or swapping with number one. Each subsequent participant may either keep his or her unwrapped gift or swap with anyone who has already opened a gift. (By the way, anyone who is asked to swap a present must do so.) With this game, you can never be sure what you'll end up taking home, but that's the fun of it. 

Secret Santa
Names are drawn from a bowl at a gathering of family or friends, and each person is assigned to be a "secret Santa" for someone else at a future get-together. Besides the fun of trying to figure out who your secret Santa is, you yourself get to sneak around, doing nice things on the sly for your assigned person. Some Santas even send their recipients sweet notes or small gifts throughout the holiday season. Santas are revealed on the day of the party, when they hand out their final gifts. 

Lucky Bags
Matthew Axe, art director at Martha Stewart Living, spends Christmas in England, where members of his family started a tradition of giving one another what they call lucky bags. "You are given someone's name a month before," says Axe, "and you have to buy five presents each for 2 pounds sterling or less, for a total of 10 pounds [about $20]. It's a real challenge, but once you start looking, you'd be surprised at what you can find." A lucky bag filled with gourmet foods or fragrant soaps and lotions is a gift that will please most anyone.

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