What Is A White Elephant Gift Exchange?

Anyone who has had the good fortune of participating in this holiday event will tell you it was a wonderfully refreshing and novel idea. To which holiday event am I referring to, you ask? Why, a White Elephant Gift Exchange, of course! Just what in the world is a white elephant exchange gift game? How does the game work, and what are the rules all participants have to follow? Are there any good white elephant gift ideas to start with? Fret not, because all of those questions will be answered in an instant!

What Is A White Elephant Gift Exchange?

A white elephant gift exchange is your usual gifting event during Christmas and holidays, but with an awesome twist. The twist is that instead of selecting the best or the most appropriate gift for a person, you must do the exact opposite and choose the most inappropriate or wackiest present imaginable for laughs and giggles! Fun, isn't it?

Before anything else, a short story. A story of how a white elephant exchange can turn into a laugh-out-loud event and create lasting memories for the participants! The place where I worked in decided to try out a white elephant exchange instead of the usual exchange gift last year. We were given only three days to come up with an inexpensive and an ultimately unorthodox present, and on top of that, the workload had become enormous due to the impending Christmas day. I didn't have time to carefully think and found myself in a thrift store the night before the exchange. Without thinking, I picked out a realistic rat toy, brought it home, wrapped it up and went to sleep.

The following day, the white elephant exchange turned out to be a resounding success. We never had this much fun opening surprising gifts in years! My "present" finally came up and and a lady co-worker opened the gift. Her smile froze when she saw what was inside, and an utterly horrific shriek escaped from her lungs! She threw the present straight up and ran out of the office screaming like a banshee! It took a good amount of time to calm her down and explain to her that the realistic rat present was just a cleverly made toy. She and I became close friends after that, and she received many more rat-themed gifts from me year after year.

Why is the event called a white elephant exchange? The term itself pertains to a ridiculously expensive gift with a really high upkeep cost, but provide little to no value to the recipient whatsoever. Legend tells of a Siam ruler who "gifted" rare white elephants to people he disliked. The people ended up with a rare present that holds little to no value, and was a pain to maintain!

White elephant exchanges are so popular that they are enjoyed the whole world over. There are many other ways to call a white elephant gift exchange, and some of the funnier ones are Dirty Santa, Yankee Swap, Pollyanna and Cutthroat Christmas!

How Can I Play The White Elephant Gift Exchange?

To start this fun event, you will need a crowd to play! More specifically, a group of six people or more. You can organize this exchange in your school, in your office, or just right at home with friends and during family gatherings. The gifts in themselves can be used or bought with a restricted budget- the lower the cost, the better. This forces the participant to carefully consider and find novel items that are a hoot to display or use. The more novel (or useless) an item, the better. Like the story earlier, if you can find a gift that elicits surprise, glee, or a guffaw from the receiver, then you are doing it right.

Everything should be a surprise for adding to the overall event's impact, so everyone should take measures in keeping the gift unknown until the time comes. Like traditional gift exchanges, the presents should be wrapped to conceal the contents inside. If you have already bought a present days, or even weeks before the game, don't be a blabbermouth and tell your closest friend. Putting in the presents in a designated area (under the Christmas tree or in a special table) puts the gift out of sight and out of mind.

Use a paper and divide it into the many pieces per participant. Write down consecutive numbers and have each one pick from the pool. The first person gets to pick a gift from the pool, then open the gift to show everyone what's inside. That person's turn ends, and the next one begins. The next participant can choose to pick another gift from the unopened boxes or to "steal" an opened present by the previous person. Some quick rules in stealing- a particular gift cannot be "stolen" twice in a turn, and a person cannot get back a "stolen" gift in that same round. Clear so far? Good.

Repeat until everyone has gotten gifts, or until the pool of gifts are gone. Like many games, there are a lot of variations in a white elephant exchange gift, so it would be best to tailor it according to the crowd. The gifts can be downright weird, catchy and attractive, or be under $30 or even less.

Some White Elephant Gift Ideas To Consider

Would you like to be remembered as the person who gifted the most insanely unique present in your next white elephant gift exchange party? Do you enjoy the fun challenge that this game requires? Sometimes you can be unwittingly caught up and end up spending more time shopping around thrift stores. It can even become a full-blown hobby!

Online shops, such as are very convenient and provide a quick and fun experience when looking around for awesome white elephant gift ideas. The light-hearted nature of the white elephant game blends well with the website because you can see plenty of white elephant gifts that will make you say "Whoa, I have never thought of this present before! I can't wait to see the look of the person's face when they open up my gift!". has even made it easier for you to select the type of gifts you are looking for because the items are divided by categories. Whoever thought that searching for white elephant gift ideas could be so much fun and rewarding in itself? You might even enjoy it so much that you declare white elephant gift exchanges a yearly tradition!

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