Yankee Swap

By: Lauren Tankle


christmas-present-1183662.jpgYou really don’t know a person until you have played a Yankee Swap game with them. This game makes you realize that people you grew up with your whole life are unapologetically capable of plotting your demise and will do everything and anything to take you down all because you really wanted the airplane pillow for your next vacation. You think your grandma is super sweet and not really aware of what is happening in her old age, but–jokes on you–grandma is strategizing to use that golden age innocence to her advantage and she’s out for blood.

Yankee swaps were never a tradition in my family growing up. I had never even heard of the concept until about 5 years ago; and now, I feel like it has become a rarity to go to a Christmas party and there isn’t some type of Yankee swap. At this point, It just wouldn’t feel like Christmas without the family gathered around with the sounds of laughter and lingering Yankee Swap hostility in the air.

I always struggle with finding the perfect gift for this type of event because there are so many different types of people involved. I always end up cursing the game under my breath because I brought a gift card and a bottle of wine as a swap gift and end up leaving with Christmas patterned oven mitts, so I feel like the issue of not knowing what to get as a swap gift is all too common.

To help you avoid the stress of coming up with some ideas, I’ve created a list of five items that you can add to the Yankee swap pile that are so good, they might start a family feud and potentially ruin Christmas.

  1. Scratch Tickets.

I DON’T GET IT. People go BANANAS over these things. No one I know has ever even won any money on the tickets from any of the Christmas parties I’ve ever been too. You are potentially using your swap powers to walk away with absolutely nothing. I equate fighting over scratch tickets as silly as fighting over the air you are all breathing because you’ll end up with the same result. Perhaps, I’m just not a big enough risk taker. But whatever your feelings are about them be prepared for sweet old grandma to turn on you for the chance–not even a guarantee–of hitting the big bucks.

  1. Alcohol

You don’t really realize the potential alcohol consumption problem your family might have until you watch them all fight over a fancy bottle of scotch. If I end up with a bottle of wine–no matter what I brought–I consider that a win. If it’s a type of alcohol you don’t like, you can always re-gift it.

  1. Blankets

I have been in two Yankee swap games where the battle for the blanket has gotten pretty heated. I don’t understand it fully; but I feel like once you’ve felt the softness of the blanket, you’re instantly put under a trance and there is no going back.

  1. Gift cards

I don’t even bother choosing the gift cards unless there are a lot of them because the person with the last choice will always end up with the best and most valuable gift card, and it’s almost always a cheesecake factory gift card. Coffee gift cards are a hot item as well because almost everyone likes coffee and tea.

  1. Cereal

The last item ( I can’t even believe I’m writing this) is the 3 pack of the jumbo boxes of cereal that you can find at any of the wholesale stores like Costco and BJs. Maybe there were no other good gift options that year, but I have never seen a family turn on each other like I witnessed the year someone brought the jumbo boxes of cereal to the Yankee swap. It is still talked about to this day and has definitely left a scar. That game gave the expression heartless a whole new meaning.


I hope this helps you to feel more prepared for the upcoming Yankee swap game at the family party that kind of ends up feeling like a slightly lesser version of the game show Survivor. Use your acquired life skills, pick your best family members previous to the start of the game to strategize, and remember don’t you think for one second you are above taking the present grandma wants.All is fair in love and Yankee Swap. I think that’s how that saying goes. Right?

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