What is a White Elephant exchange and how do you have one with your friends or loved ones over the holidays? Here's everything you need to know!
A White Elephant is similar to a Secret Santa, but there are some key differences.
"A White Elephant Gift Exchange is a popular Christmas event where people vie to walk away with the best present," according to the official website. "It also goes by Yankee Swap, Dirty Santa and a plethora of other names. The White Elephant game is played by a lot of different rulesets — some dead simple and others confusingly elaborate."
There are tons of different ways to play the game, but a White Elephant Gift exchange is usually simple.
"There are lots of different approaches to buying a White Elephant Gift," according to the official website. "As long as you’re following the price suggestion (typically around $20) and any “special” instructions by the organizer, you can’t really go wrong. That said, here are some characteristics to look for when looking for a gift to bring to your White Elephant Gift Exchange party: Funny gifts make the biggest splash at the party, but aren’t always the most desirable items for swapping. Weird artwork and gadgets are also popular at Christmas gift swaps, and are often highly sought after. There’s nothing wrong with buying a genuinely nice gift, especially since it has the potential to fuel a lot of competition during the game."
There are several rules to a white elephant gift exchange, though the exchange is very simple.
The gift exchange organizer should provide detailed information on what type of gift people should bring, as well as on the budget to which everyone should adhere. This way, it keeps it equal for everyone.
Everyone in the group will draw a number out of a hat or box. The number should be a surprise to them, so that no one can cheat to go first. Once every player gets their number, they can sit in the order of their numbers.
Every player should get together to sit in a circle or in a line in their numbered order. They should all be able to see the gifts in the pile of presents so that they can easily pick and steal (more on that soon!).
The first player should select a gift from the common gift pool. They'll open it in front of the others.
The next player can then choose a new gift from the gift pool or steal the first player's gift. This goes on and on around the circle or down the line.
Then, anyone who gets their gift stolen in this way can then do the same in that they can go ahead and choose a new gift or steal from someone else.
Once all the players have had a turn, the first player then gets a chance to swap their gift or any other gift that's already been opened. Meanwhile, anyone whose gift is stolen may steal from someone else (as long as that person hasn’t been stolen from yet, as well). When someone finally declines to steal a gift, the game comes to an end.
While these are the rules, some friends groups do decide to add some added fun.
"While the above rules are as close to the 'vanilla' version of the game as you can get, there’s really no right or wrong way to play," according to the official website. "Over the years, many new ideas have been incorporated into the gift swap game, with the aim of keeping the game moving and/or making it more strategic. Here are some rules tweaks many people use:
Here are some gift ideas for everyone in your life over the holidays.
Here are some gift ideas for your family!
Here are some gift ideas for your coworkers!
Here are some gift ideas for your friends!
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.