Mountain View Medical Supply

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The White Elephant Gift Exchange

The White Elephant Gift Exchange goes by several other names such as Yankee Swap, Black Santa, Naughty Santa, Thieving Secret Santa, etc., but the basic concept is always the same.

This gift exchange is a popular holiday party game found primarily in North America and generally, you need six or more participants to play. The larger the group, the better. The term “white elephant” refers to a gift whose maintenance costs exceed its usefulness. Basically, the gifts are often gifts the participants have received outside of the game, but no longer want, or they can simply be gag gifts. The whole idea is for the gifts to be fun, but not garbage.

The history of the White Elephant comes from the mid-1800’s Asia that was home to actual white elephants. Although it was a revered creature, it was considered a hassle to its owner because of the extensive attention and upkeep the elephant required. There is also a tale that “the King of Siam would award a disagreeable courtier a white elephant, the upkeep of which would ruin the courtier.” And so, a white elephant gift is one that is supposed to be more of a burden (or in many cases, a joke) to it’s recipient, than a desirable gift.

How to organize a White Elephant Gift Exchange:
1. Set the rules for the group by determining if gifts have to be re-gifted, or set a limit on how much they can spend.

2. Find the perfect White Elephant gift and wrap it anonymously.

3. Each person draws a number and beginning with #1, choose and open a gift.

4. #2 now has a choice to either open another gift or “steal” an already opened gift. If they steal a gift, the person whose gift was stolen has the option of stealing from someone else, or opening a new gift. Typically, a gift can only be stolen 2 times. You cannot steal the gift that was just stolen from you.

5. Go to the next drawn number and repeat. The exchange continues until every gift has been opened and the last person opens their gift. It should be noted that #1 should have the final choice to keep their gift or make one final steal.

One variation is to not place a limit on the times a gift can be stolen, but instead limit the number of times a person can be stolen from. Or, another version is to leave all of the gifts unwrapped until the end, and then allow each person one steal once the presents are opened. In another variation, all gifts must conform to a theme such as gardening or cooking. A more drastic variation involves gifts that are neither purchased or desirable, such as an “ugliest gift” or “most useless” gift.

Some groups have even found ways to have parties online via email, video chat and social sites, and some even have them tied to online gift shopping! Happy gifting!


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