Ready for Your White Elephant Exchange?

December 10, 2014

Tis the season for ugly sweater parties and ridiculous gift exchanges!

This time of year it seems we all try to outdo each other coming up with some of the most ludicrous (and cheap) gifts possible for our friend’s, roommate’s, fraternity brother’s, family member’s or coworker’s annual white elephant gift exchange.

While we’ve pretty much all been to these exchanges before, most of us probably don’t know where the term actually originated from.

Read on to learn the history of this festive ritual, brush up on the rules to host your own exchange and gets some inspiration for the perfect white elephant gifts.

History: White elephants (the live animals) are a real thing. Why they aren’t called albino elephants like the tigers we just don’t know, but we’ll try to research the topic and let you know. But back to the elephants… these animals were popular in South East Asia and rumor has it, the King of Siam once gifted one of the rare beasts to a courtier who upset him hoping that he would be financially ruined by the maintenance costs of owning such an animal.

In short, the term white elephant refers to a gift that is hard to get rid of and isn’t really worth the trouble of keeping.

Rules of the Game: The game works best with at least 5 or 6 people. Each person brings a wrapped white elephant gift. The gifts are grouped together and the first person chooses an item and unwraps it. The second person can either choose to steal the unwrapped gift, or pick a new gift from the pile.  The game continues on in the same manor with each new person. A gift can only be stolen a total of 3 times. On the third steal, that person gets the item. So keep that in mind if you spy something you want.

Strategies: It’s better to go toward the middle or last in the row of gift choosers. This allows you to get a good idea of the gifts that are already in play. Veterans of the game will often hand out numbers at the beginning to determine who goes first, second, third and so on. But, if you have a newbie hosting you might be able to get away with sneaking into the middle of the pack for your turn.

Gift ideas: While there are definitely examples of truly useless white elephant gifts out there, like that missing sock from the dryer. It’s much more fun to provide gifts that are either funny or actually somewhat useful so people want to steal them. Below are some ideas.

Likely to get stolen: A bottle of alcohol, a bunch of $1 scratch-it lottery tickets or movie tickets.

Likely to get laughs: The book of awkward family photos, a poop calendar, a farting coin bank or a bacon air freshener. Need more ideas? Just got toamazon.com and type in “white elephant gifts.”

Happy gifting!

Photo credit: Des