Dirty Santa Rules

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So you’ve decided that this year you’re going to organize a Dirty Santa in 2024. Are you sure you know exactly how it works and all the rules? Well, if you’re not clear on all the rules, don’t fret, just read on.

  • How much should the gifts cost?
  • How is dirty santa game played?
  • What are the dirty santa rules?
  • Who starts first and how does the game end?

Fortunately Sassy Santa has everything you need to know on this page!

You can also link to or download shorter and printer friendly rules.

Main Dirty Santa Rules

1. Everyone has to bring a well wrapped gift.

Even thought the gifts can be just about anything within the theme that’s set in the rules, they must be really well wrapped and create an illusion of value. A common play around this is to have some silly gift shaped as something more valuable, or putting something tiny in a huge, heavy box. No matter what the gift is though, it must fall within the agreed cost guidelines and rules for Dirty Santa event.

Often Dirty Santa exchanges take place around a certain theme. For example a theme could be books, so everyone would bring the worst, the most inappropriate(within reason depending on setting) or silly books they can think of.

It could be a re-gift or an unwanted item from persons home. Other times gifts could be funny jewelry, hilarious clothing items or even DIY presents. It’s very convenient to shop online for Dirty Santa Gift Ideas. Sassy Santa has some of the best Dirty Santa Gifts for your choosing here.

2. Order of players has to be determined by drawing.

numbers can be printed out or written on paper and dropped in a bowl for everyone to pick out randomly. There are even online and mobile apps to help with this process, but hands on picking from the bowl is usually the most fun. Once everyone has picked a random number, the order of the game-play is set.

3. Game order must be maintained by keeping everyone in circle.

The seating order will need to be maintained if the game play is following a poem, story or a song. These poems/songs instruct users to pick up a new gift or pass it to someone else so the order of seating is important.

4. Player that draws #1 chooses and opens first gift.

First player will pick out the gift of their choosing and open it for everyone to see.

5. The next player can open a new gift or steal an opened one.

The next player can decide to pick one gift from unopened gifts or steal one opened gift from anyone that has already opened one. This is where the fun begins as the participants steal most desired presents from each other while trying to avoid what they guess might be an undesirable gift in the unopened pile.

6. The are limits for stealing gifts to keep in mind:

If a participant has a gift stolen from them, they have to wait for the next turn to get it back. A gift can be only stolen once per turn and can not be stolen right away, instead one must select either unopened present or steal from someone else.

7. When last person refuses to steal, game ends.

Only after all players have had their turn does the first player gets a last chance to swap the gift they are holding for any other opened gift. Anyone who’s gift is stolen may steal from someone else as long as that person hasn’t been stolen from yet. once all of the unopened Dirty Santa gifts have been opened and someone declines to steal a gift, the game will come to an end.


You don’t have to stick to the main rules as there are other fun varieties that can be played. Here’s how some people prefer to play the exchange:

* No last swap. In this variation the first player is not allowed to swap in the end. Thus the game ends when the swapping is complete after the last player has chosen the last gift or declined to steal.

* After three swaps the Gift is out!
If any present gets stolen three times, it won’t be allowed to be stolen again and who ever was holding it last will get to keep it. So you might want to wait till someone has stolen a gift you want at least twice before you strike! Although timing it might be nearly impossible.

Download Dirty Santa Rules

You can download printer friendly version of these rules below. PDF is handy for quickly or printing the rules out while the Word document will allow you to change the specifics of the rules before you print.

PDF: DirtySantaRules.pdf
Word: DirtySantaRules.doc

Link to Dirty Santa Rules

If you are organizing a Dirty Santa exchange, it might be handy to link to these rules to keep everyone up to speed on how exactly this gift swap takes place. You can copy and paste code below to link to this page from your website, blog or event page:

Get Featured!

Are you running a gift exchange this Christmas season? Want your company or group to be featured by Sasssy Santa? Just contact us and we will feature your story on our blog, along with a funny or happy picture of your party for the whole world to see!