by Karen Cheong
Instructions ~~ 1 Month prior to Party:
- Send your invitations out at least 2-4 weeks in advance to give your guests ample time to make, bake or buy their items.
- Decide on how many items you would like your guests to bring. I usually have them bring 8 items but you can do it with 6 or 4. The total number of items each guest brings does not change the exchange in any way.
- Don’t forget to include on the invitation the importance of an R.S.V.P from each guest. (This is important because the hostess needs to divide the guests into groups, prior to the event, in order to “run the exchange” in an organized fashion.)
Instructions for the evening of the Christmas Exchange:
1. Greet your guests at the door and make sure everyone gets their nametag.
2. Introduce your guests to one another and encourage them to partake in the “refreshments.” (This can be light, finger type foods, desserts, or whatever you choose to serve!)
3. Gather your guests in the same room and “welcome them again” to your home.
Dependant upon the number of guests invited, I share something “special” about each of my guests in order for the guests to “make connections” but more importantly, to bless each one of them and thank them for coming! (It is hard to do this with more than 35 or so guests)
4. At this point, I ask the women if they have a homemade gift, to get their gift and “show” it to all of the guests. (One year a friend knit beautiful winter scarves and I know it took a lot of time, so I wanted her to share her beautiful gift with everyone!!!)
Sometimes, there may be a gift that may need to be “explained.” (For example, one year someone brought a Christmas mug with wrapped candies inside, however, you couldn’t tell what was inside the mug and when she told us it was homemade fudge, everyone was informed and intrigued!)
5. I then explain how the Christmas Exchange will work and ask if there are any questions.
6. I “choose” the order in which the groups will “go” for the evening! (This is done by writing down the name of each group on a piece of paper, folded and placed in a “hat” and chosen in front of everyone.
(For example, you have a red, green, silver or gold star on each nametag.) Now everyone knows the order in which each group will go for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, rounds of the exchange.
7. I have a bell that I ring in order to “announce” which group goes to the tables to choose their gift for that round!
- For example: The order for the 1st round is as follows:
- The order for the 2nd round is as follows:
- Continue until you have 8 rounds, that is, if you have asked your guests to bring 8 items.
- You will have as many rounds as the # of gifts you ask your guests to bring!
8. Let the Christmas Exchange begin . . .Round 1, round 2, round 3, etc. (Remember to ring the bell with the start of each round! This will allow your guests to chat with one another and / or enjoy the refreshments without fear they may miss their round.)
9. After about 4 rounds (I have my guests bring 8 gifts for the exchange), I ask the ladies if they have 4 items at this time. The reason for this is because sometimes the guests may not hear the bell ring or the announcing of their time to choose.
This gives everyone a chance to check and make sure they haven’t missed a round! If they have missed one of the rounds, I allow them to go to the table at that time to get the missed gift.
10. We proceed until we have had 8 rounds and all guests have 8 gifts to take home!
11. After the gift exchange part of the evening is complete, I gather the ladies in the same room and ask them to “get comfortable”. I gather the women at the end of the evening so we can turn our attention and focus on the Lord, the reason in which we are gathering in the first place!
12. Your devotion should be anywhere from 10-20 minutes long, depending on how the Lord leads.
(Please note: I write out my devotion and “know” what I am going to say, usually being able to share without having to actually read it to the ladies, but you don’t have to do this from memory).
13. I typically try to have a gift to give to my guests that “ties in” with the devotion. This allows your guests to take the gift home as a reminder of the evening and hopefully, an opportunity for the Lord to “speak to them” in some way.
(I have had guests mention from year to year, the gift I gave them from the previous year(s).
14. We end the evening with the song, O Come O Come Emmanuel . . . I give each of my guests a copy of the song and antiphons we will be reading. (Please note: We begin this portion of the evening with one of my guests, reading the antiphon as it is their turn.)
Remember, we sing a verse of the song, then read an antiphon, sing a verse, read an antiphon, etc.
15. At the end of this time, we end the song with Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel . . . I close the evening with a prayer and an amen!!!
17. As my guests leave, I make sure I tell each of them good-bye and thank them for coming! (This is usually when I give them their “take home gift.”)
Further Exchange Tips:
- Give your guests time to “check out” all of the gifts available to choose from. This gives them ideas as to which items they like!
- You may “go to the tables” only when it is your “turn” to choose a gift.
- Once you choose your gift, it is yours! No one can take your gift away from you!
- You may not choose 2 of the same type of gift.
- After the exchange is over, you may “switch” with someone to get 2 of a particular gift. This gives everyone a chance to “get the good gifts.”
- If someone breaks one of their gifts on their way to the party, that person may only choose as many gifts as they bring to the party. That allows everyone to go home with the same number of gifts they brought to the party.
- You may have your guests bring 4, 6, 8 or more items to the exchange. You must clarify this on the invitation! The choice is yours!
- Gifts are never wrapped in a way that you can’t see what is inside. You should be able to see “what you are getting.”