The left-right passing game is a really fun way to do a gift exchange.

Whether you’re doing a gift swap for the holidays or an office party or just because, with the right story you’ll have everyone in stitches by the end.

We have not just one but five great stories for you to use. Read on to find out how to play this favorite holiday game, plus five free story downloads.

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What Is the Left-Right Passing Game?

The Left-Right Game is a way to do a gift exchange with a group of people.

People pass their gift to the left or right according to clues given in a story, which is read aloud.

How Do You Play the Left-Right Game?

Everyone brings a gift to the gift exchange. It’s best to decide on a theme (such as coffee mugs or Christmas ornament) and/or a dollar amount (somewhere in the range of $10-50). All the presents should be wrapped ahead of time.

Seat everyone in a circle, with the gift they brought in their hands. A moderator will read a story – typically a silly, ridiculous story, with a Christmas theme or one that pokes fun at the boss and coworkers – filled with the words “left” and “right.”

Each time the reader says the word “left,” everyone passes their gift to the left. Same thing for when they say “right” – the gifts move to the right.

What Do You Need for the Left-Right Game?

You only need two things.

  • A story to read, filled with “left” and “right”
  • Everyone to bring a gift

That’s it! Let’s get to some stories.

Left-Right Passing Game Story Ideas

These are all fun, clean, and family friendly. Some are intended for family gatherings, others intended for the office party, and still others designed where you can personalize it by filling in the names of your choice.

Most of these stories are holiday-themed, but we also have one for anytime and anywhere.

Story #1: Ribbons & Bows

Left/Right Game Stories
  • Christmas theme
  • Anyone, any gathering

This is a very silly Left/Right Christmas Game story for any holiday party, perfect for kids and really the whole family.

Excerpt:

It was a cold, snowy day outside. Mom took the day off work, and Dad LEFT the office a few hours earlier than usual.

It was Christmas Eve, and both of them had LEFT the kids with Grandma, who’d had a little too much eggnog and wasn’t in her RIGHT mind. 

Once back at home, Mom and Dad got to work RIGHT away setting up the scene for Santa. Mom was wrapping gifts the RIGHT way…

Story #2: Christmas Parade

Christmas Stories for Left/Right Game
  • Christmas theme
  • Anyone, any gathering

Another ridiculous Christmas story, ideal for any holiday gathering.

Excerpt:

There was a week LEFT to go before December 25th, and the entire town was in the Christmas spirit. And RIGHTfully so; the annual Christmas parade was only a few days away!

The Mayor was perhaps the most excited of all for the parade. He’d been RIGHT when he proclaimed, “This year’s Christmas parade…

Story #3: The Christmas Tree

Personalized Left-Right Game Story
  • Christmas theme
  • Anyone, any gathering
  • Personalized with up to 7 names

This family-friendly Christmas gift exchange story features blank spaces where you can fill in names from among your family members.

Excerpt:

This Christmas, Aunt _______________ and Uncle _______________ had opted to do RIGHT by the _______________ Family and chop down their own evergreen tree.

“There’s just something not quite RIGHT about those store-bought ones,” they’d say….

Story #4: The Christmas Luncheon [Office Party]

Passing Game Story Ideas for Gift Exchange
  • Christmas theme
  • Ideal for the office
  • Personalized with two coworker names

This holiday passing game story provides spaces for you to put in the names of two of your most ridiculous coworkers.

Excerpt:

[Employee 1] _______________ came up to [Employee 2] _______________‘s cubicle and leaned over the LEFT side of it, just like they did every morning.

[Employee 2] _______________ didn’t really like it when [Employee 1] _______________ did that, since they always leaned RIGHT in front of the coffee maker, too, which was…

Story #5: The Piano Man [Anytime!]

Free Printable: Left/Right Game Story (Non-Holiday)
  • No holiday theme, ideal for use throughout the year
  • Just the tiniest bit creepy
  • Great for all ages

This passing game story is perfect to use throughout the year, for birthdays, office parties, and more. Who is The Piano Man, and what dangers lurk within his shop? Should Lucy buy a piano… or walk right out?

Excerpt:

Lucy Keys was so excited. She was about to purchase a brand new piano at the shop RIGHT down the road from her house.

She was a musician in her own RIGHT, and the time was finally RIGHT to own her own piano. She LEFT her home and hopped RIGHT in her car, determined to…

More Gift Exchange Games & Ideas

We came up with more than 45 of the best gift exchange games here. The “more than 45” part includes ideas for skipping the traditional materialistic gifting frenzy that happens each year.

Whether you want something fun, simple, crazy, cute, or to just avoid a lot of the annual insanity, we have some great ideas here for your whole family (or the whole office).

Read it: Thirty-Nine 45+ Ingenious Gift Exchange Ideas

Gift Ideas for Your Gift Exchange

Here are some of our favorite gift exchange gifts. Because, if you’re bringing a gift, you want it to be the one people fight over.

Sea Turtle Tumbler

This sea turtle tumbler is adorable. High quality in your choice of size and color, perfect for all those holiday cocoas and coffees on the go.

You can also get it customized with text, which is included. Of course, you won’t know who is going to get this, so you can’t do a name. But you can do a custom message that works for anyone (“I won this mug at the 2020 ACME Company Gift Exchange”) or a classic Christmas quote that your family loves (“Buzz, Your Girlfriend, Woof”).

Bubble Wrap Bubble-Popping Calendar

Who doesn’t love popping those bubbles? This calendar gives the recipient a bubble to pop for each day of the year.

The only downside is that they’ll probably pop them all in the first week. Or day.

Reindeer Toss Game

Inflate these reindeer antlers, put one set on your head and another on a friend’s, then go to town trying to land some rings.

A silly – but oh-so-fun – gift that is perfect for your next holiday gift exchange.

Laser Cut Wood Journal

This journal is cute. Like, really cute. And who doesn’t like a journal? It’s the right price for most gift exchange budgets, and will be a coveted prize in the trading/stealing wars.

A Photo of Yourself on a Sequin Pillow

If your gift exchange is more the “white elephant” variety, here’s a killer idea. Put a photo of yourself on a sequin pillow, and watch everyone fight over it.

Mini Library Building Kit

Ok so this one is probably a little on the high side for most gift exchange dollar limits, but if you want to win the unofficial prize for bringing the most unique (and most “stolen”) gift, this is it.

It’s a model set to build a tiny library, filled with all sorts of miniature, magical things. In addition to all the books, which are organized by type, there are picture frames, maps, a chandelier, a ladder, flowers, and lots more to discover.

Fernweh Candle

Fernweh Candles specializes in candle “experiences” meant to take you on an adventure while yet in the comfort of home.

At your Left – Right gift exchange, everybody will be vying for a whiff of the Roaring Fireplace Candle from Fernweh’s New England collection. Scents of balsam and spices mingle together to create a nostalgic aroma of Christmases of yore.

A New Calendar

Everyone is about to be needing a new calendar; the year’s almost over, after all! That’s what makes a calendar an excellent idea for a holiday gift exchange.

And the cool thing about calendars is that you can find literally any theme under the sun, from cats to cars to comics. Have fun looking!

DIY Gift

Do-it-yourself for left - right gift exchange

When you bring a do-it-yourself gift to the Left – Right gift exchange, you are generally bringing a bit more effort and thoughtfulness to the table than if you were to just purchase a gift.

If you go the DIY route, there are literally hundred of gift ideas for you to choose from to make. Here are some of our favorites:

For further DIY gift inspiration, see 100 Things You Can Make While Watching TV.


Read next: Gift Giving Etiquette: 15 Simple Rules to Make Your Gift Stand Out

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