Some of the best fun I’ve had at the holidays is participating in White Elephant Gift Exchanges. In a White Elephant Exchange, participants agree to bring a wrapped gift, the value of which is not to exceed a specified amount, usually $10-20. The gift may also be a “White Elephant,” something you might find at a White Elephant Sale, it may be a little kitschy or otherwise no longer wanted by its current owner. This is the perfect opportunity to get rid of those tacky holiday decorations that you’ve had for 20 years or the gaudy jewelry Aunt Bee gave you.
The White Elephant Gift Exchange works like this: participants draw numbers to determine the swap order. The first swapper unwraps one of the gifts. The second person then has a choice of “stealing” person one’s item or opening a new gift. If person one chooses to steal person one’s gift then person one gets to choose a new gift to unwrap. Person three can then choose from the already open gifts or choose to open a wrapped one. Each time a person has their gift stolen they may choose to steal someone else’s open gift or pick an unopen one. There are other rules and variations to the game, many of which can be found on this Wiki.
Some people use the occasion to get rid of items they no longer have a use for (VHS videos), don’t like (a pair of gloves), can’t use (a broken Tiffany lamp) or don’t want (a singing stuffed snowman). Some of the fun is seeing who gets “stuck” with an item they don’t want: my sister-in-law who got the nose hair clippers my brother-in-law had bought and really wanted, or my uncle who got the really nice smelling lavender bath set. There is usually some valuable items that show up (alcohol, lottery tickets, huge tins of nuts, etc.). People get creative in their wrapping to keep others from figuring out what an item is.
There are always lots of laughs at a White Elephant Gift Exchange. Now is the time to set up a White Elephant Gift Exchange with friends, family and co-workers over the holidays. Just be sure to get your rules set out ahead of time.