Python Gift Circle

Holiday Python geekiness…

If your family (or classroom or workplace) does “gift circles,” where everyone buys a gift for exactly one other person in the group, you could do (and probably already do do) the old “pull a name out of a hat” thing. But that takes setup time: writing down names, cutting them out, finding a hat, passing it around… shouldn’t this process be automated? Here’s a little Python script to get it done quick.

On my MacBook, the script runs for ten people in 27 milliseconds – think of all the egg nog you could drink in the time you save!

Populate the “recipients” list with real names and run ./

Update: This script is now available at github.

import random

Gift exchange randomizer in Python.
Step through a list of people and, for each member of that list,
select someone else to be a recipient of their gift. That recipient:

    A) Must not be themselves (no self-gifting)
    B) Must not already have been assigned as a recipient

Due to randomization, we can't prevent the possibility that 7/8 of people
will all give to each other, leaving the 8th to give to themselves. Therefore
we keep running the function until we get full distribution.

def give():
    str = ''

    givers = ['Leslie', 'Jamie', 'Avis', 'Jim', 'Amy', 'Scot', 'Mike', 'Miles', 'Buford', 'Momo']
    recipients = list(givers)  # Make a copy

    for idx, giver in enumerate(givers):

        # Grab random person from the recipients
        recipient = random.choice(recipients)

        # Make sure we haven't either randomly chosen the same recipient and giver OR
        # ended up with only one un-gifted person in the list.
        if recipient == giver:
            return False
            # Remove this recipient from the pool and build the results string
            str = str + "{idx}: {giver} gives to {recipient}\n".format(
                idx=idx+1, giver=giver, recipient=recipient
    return str

# Keep trying until we get through the set with no failures
while not results:
    results = give()

print results

Output looks like this:

1: Leslie gives to Amy
2: Jamie gives to Leslie
3: Avis gives to Momo
4: Jim gives to Jamie
5: Amy gives to Buford
6: Scot gives to Mike
7: Mike gives to Scot
8: Miles gives to Avis
9: Buford gives to Jim
10: Momo gives to Miles

Happy holidays, you big nerd!

8 Replies to “Python Gift Circle”

  1. This is truly geektastic ! Idea for Easter – python code to randomise GPS locations to hide the Easter eggs.

  2. rand = random.randint(0, (len(recips))-1)
    randomRecip = recips[rand]

    should be written as
    randomRecip = random.choice(recips)

  3. Thanks Bob – Yes, that’s more compact. While I’ve got you, any theories as to why this script fails at random? If you run it again and again, it’ll crash about 10% of the time with “IndexError: list index out of range” – I just can’t see what’s causing that.

  4. I know i’m 4 years late but, the reason why it crashes once in a while is probably when the last person in people is also the last person not assigned.

  5. Eric, big thanks for reminding me of this and for kicking my butt to finally refactor this to eliminate possible breakage. It’s a totally different script now, and works every time (though I wonder how long it would take to run with a thousand participants).

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