Auburn Family

When most people play the game, Dirty Santa, it involves each person bringing a gift, drawing a number and trying to steal the gift they want. The Holladay household in Opelika, Ala., however, has always played Dirty Santa a little different.

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Instead of each person drawing a number to determine the order in which they will participate in the game, each person draws a word. The words drawn are the most common and most strategically placed words in Clement Moore’s poem, “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”


The Holladay’s open the Christmas season by playing this game after Thanksgiving dinner.


“As soon as we finish celebrating Thanksgiving, we immediately shift into the Christmas season,” Gayle Holladay said. “I not only enjoy Thanksgiving because I get to spend time with my family but also because I know it’s when I will open my first Christmas gift of the year!”


Gayle Holladay reads the book, and the first time participants hear their word, they open a gift. After opening the first gift, they either have the option to keep it or steal someone else’s opened gift. Whenever participants hear their word again, they can steal any of the opened presents.


“It pays to know the story,” Morgan Holladay said. “If you know when your word is going to come up, you know how many times you have left to steal.”


Besides using words instead of numbers, another main difference between this game and Dirty Santa is no presents die. Normally, if you steal the same present a certain number of times, the present dies and becomes yours in Dirty Santa. That rule doesn’t exist in the Holladay household.


“We are a competitive family, and we enjoy stealing presents from people,” Gayle Holladay said. “It’s all in good fun, but we definitely aren’t afraid of going after the gift that we want.”


The most strategic word in the game is “night.” The last line of the poem states, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.” The participant that draws that word has the last chance to steal a gift and can get whatever present they want.


Other words used in the game are “all,” “reindeer,” “stockings,” “foot” and “Christmas.”


“After reading the story for all these years, I know which words come up often during the story,” Gayle Holladay said. “This game is easy and fun for anyone to play, and throughout the years, I have figured out which words work the best.”

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