Are you looking for a new holiday tradition? How about a gift exchange game from Denmark that involves silly gifts, chance, patience, and a bit of frenzied mania?
What Is Pakkeleg?
Pakkeleg is a traditional Danish gift exchange game played during the holiday season which involves participants exchanging gifts based on rolling dice.
How Do You Play Pakkeleg?
What you need:
- 1-3 wrapped gifts from each participant
To play the Pakkeleg Christmas gift exchange game, everyone must bring one (or more) wrapped gifts. Typically, these are inexpensive things like candy, silly toys, or items from the dollar aisle.
Everyone piles the presents in the middle of the room or table. Each person takes turns rolling the dice. If someone rolls a 6, they can choose a present. Go around the room, with each person rolling the dice, until all presents are taken.
(And yes, some people might have more than one gift, while others have none. Life isn’t fair.)
Then the second round can begin. This time, set a timer for an agreed-upon amount of time. One minute per player works well, but you can do more or less. Once the timer begins, players take turns again rolling the dice but this time when a 6 is rolled you can steal a gift.
Everyone will want to roll as quickly a possible to have the most chances to steal gifts. Luck, mania, and joy indeed.
Once the time runs out, the game is over and everyone can unwrap their present(s)… or sit and sulk with none.
There are many ways to play this fun Danish gift exchange game. Here are a few popular variations.
While most gift exchanges require each participant to bring one gift, because of the chance factor in Pekkeleg some families often encourage or require people to bring multiple gifts. This helps ensure that everyone can at least get one gift during the course of the game.
This is one reason why families traditionally set the gift value for the game at about $2-4 per gift. You can also simply limit it to “dollar store” items.
When someone rolls a 3, everyone passes one gift (if they have one) clockwise, to the person on their left.
Most people apply this rule during the second round, which just adds to the frenzy.
Threes and sixes are the only numbers I’ve heard about regarding this game, but there’s nothing stopping you from assigning the other numbers.
- Double sixes: Lose all your gifts
- Snake eyes: You get to unwrap (and keep) a gift
- Twos: Take a drink (adults only!)
- Sevens: Name one of Santa’s reindeer
- Fives: Swap gifts with one person
Opening Gifts for Stealing
Most versions have people opening the gifts at the end of the game. But if you have people open the gifts at the end of the first round, the stealing is more direct or meaningful (or just plain mean) in the second round.
While you should always set a timer for round two, you don’t always have to let people know how long it’s going to be. Maybe it’s 30 seconds per person, maybe it’s 3 minutes per person.
If you keep it secret, no one can watch the clock and it can put the intensity into overdrive.
Die? Or Dice?
You can use one die, or a set of dice. With a pair of dice, each roll will have two chances to turn up a six. Or a three, for that matter.
If playing with a pair of dice, you will need to decide ahead of time whether to use only what shows up on each die, or the total, or both.
For round two, rolling a pair of threes could be the ultimate roll… will each person pass a gift to the left, twice (one for each 3 rolled)? Then does the roller gets to steal a gift (because the dice total is 6)? Or do they steal first, then pass?
This is a great game for nutty house rules.
More Gift Exchange Ideas
This is one of our favorite new holiday gift exchange games, but it’s certainly not the only one. (And it’s not new to you if you’ve ever been in Denmark during the holidays.)
Here are more than 40 creative gift exchange ideas to liven up your family gathering or office holiday party.