Mastering the Art of the “White Elephant Gift” This Holiday Season

Photos via Amazon

With Christmas just a few weeks out, holiday parties are in full swing with food, eggnog, drinks and good times for all. Some also include a white elephant gift exchange.

In white elephant, which some call it “Dirty Santa” or “Yankee Swap”, people bring cheap or useless gifts, wrap them up, and people fight for the ultimate gift of the bunch.  Regardless of the names, there are rules and guidelines.

The whole point of a white elephant is to ensure you are king/queen and have the best gift – the one everyone wants and steals multiple times. Or in another direction, receives the most laughs.

Before we get into the gifts, here are some things to consider:

Know your audience
In my opinion, white elephant gifts should be funny and over the top. That said, an R-rated gift at a work party may not go over very well like it would for a group of life-long friends. Quick tip, whoever is organizing the exchange or sign-ups, you can always ask who is participating.  Ultimately, you can pick a theme of re-gifts only, gag-or-humor, tacky, ornaments, homemade, sports themed, PG, PG-13, naughty, etc.

Remember, it’s all fun and a good time until someone’s feelings get hurt so its important to ignore buying gifts that may include political, religious, or sexual—again, this is where rule number 1 comes into play—know your audience!

Set a Price Range
Typically most white elephant gift exchanges are between $10-20 but I’ve seen some go up to $100. Set a comfortable price range and stick to it. Also, decide if you want people to include the receipt as part of the entry.

GIFT Cards
Absolutely NOT!

Set the Rules ahead of time
There are numerous versions of the game. Everyone can draw a number for the order but you will need to determine the number of times a “swap” or “steal” can occur—2, 3, 4 or unlimited. One wrinkle I like to throw in is whoever draws last, they can steal any gift regardless if it’s already been stolen the max number of times.

Worst Gift Consolation Prize (Bonus Tip)
In every white elephant gift exchange, someone unfortunately gets stuck with the “worst” gift. In some cases, its pretty clear, in others it is debatable. One idea is to have everyone vote on the worst gift. Whoever is stuck with that gift gets a special gift – say a Amazon or Starbucks gift card, bottle of wine, or something else. Make sure everyone ends up a winner.

Below, are a variety of items that would make for a nice white elephant gift. For some, you might be embarrassed to buy them at a store, so these are all available on Amazon and should arrive before your party.

All of these items are under $30 and are considered PG-13. And most importantly, supposed to create smiles.