White Elephant Gift Exchange for a Fun and Frugal Christmas Party

Updated on December 9, 2017
Sherry Hewins profile image

I love crafting, especially for the holidays! Making simple crafts is a great way to spend time with your kids.

This photo was cropped and wording added by the author
This photo was cropped and wording added by the author | Source

Why Do a White Elephant Gift Exchange?

If you have a large extended family that you get together with at Christmas time you might want to consider doing a White Elephant Gift Exchange. There are many benefits to doing this instead of giving a gift to each person. The major advantage in my book is that it relieves the pressure and hassle for everybody of choosing so many gifts. It also saves the expense of buying them. It is much easier for everybody to enjoy getting together for Christmas without all of that shopping stress.

This is also a great way to add fun to an office party or any other group Christmas gathering as it is an activity as well as a gift exchange.

My family has been doing this for adult members of the family for the past several years. My siblings and I all have grown kids, many of whom are married with their own kids now. Sometimes people would be reluctant to come to a Christmas get-together if they could not provide gifts for everyone. This game helps alleviate those concerns without doing away with the gift-giving aspect altogether.

How Does it Work?

There are variations on the game, but this is how we do it. Each person who wants to participate provides a wrapped gift. We set a limit of $30 per gift. Of course, you could put any limit on it that works for you.

Everybody draws a number; each person takes their turn according to the number they drew, number one being first.

When it is your turn, you can either choose a gift to unwrap, or steal a gift that someone has already unwrapped. If someone steals your gift, you get another turn.

Each gift can be stolen a maximum of three times. After the last person has taken their turn, the first person has an opportunity to steal since they did not have anything available to steal when it was their turn.

The gift exchange lasts longer, and is more fun, than if everybody just draws a name, gets one gift and opens it. It is interesting to see which gifts are the most sought-after. Sometimes it can be surprising which gifts are the most popular.

Traditionally, a White Elephant was a gag gift or a used item that people did not want anymore. We usually go for new items, or at least items purchased just for the occasion, like flea market items. They can be funny or serious.

At first family members were apprehensive about buying a gift that would be suitable for anybody at the party, but that is not so much of a problem since people have the opportunity to steal. I usually tell everyone, "Just get something you would want." Chances are, if you would want it, someone else would too.

White Elephant, Yea or Nay?

Have you ever participated in a White Elephant Gift Exchange?

See results

What Kind of Gift Should I Choose?

When people ask me what kind of gifts they should bring, I say "get something that you would want." I think this approach works out well.

Just to help get you started with some ideas, here are a few of the gifts from our past Christmases:

  • Music CDs
  • Movie DVDs
  • Gift Baskets
  • Plush Blanket or Throw
  • Wine or Wine Glasses
  • Remote Control Car
  • Rustic Sign
  • Plant Stand
  • Fondue Set
  • Cool Picture Frame
  • Collectable Figurine
  • Fancy Shelf
  • Small Furniture
  • Carved Wooden Box
  • Streaming USB stick such as Roku or Chromcast
  • Gift card for Amazon
  • Lottery Tickets

The lottery tickets were a last-minute purchase, and they were stolen three times; that's more than any other gift. Last year I gave a set of Redneck Wineglasses, which was sort of a gag gift (they are made from mason jars). They were stolen twice.

Gift Ideas

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rednek WineglassesWooden Box Carved in the shape of a fishMetal Shelf/Plant StandMusic CDsMetal Garage SignVintage GE ClockShabby Chic ShelfLottery TicketsCutting BoardGift Basket
Rednek Wineglasses
Rednek Wineglasses | Source
Wooden Box Carved in the shape of a fish
Wooden Box Carved in the shape of a fish | Source
Metal Shelf/Plant Stand
Metal Shelf/Plant Stand | Source
Music CDs
Music CDs | Source
Metal Garage Sign
Metal Garage Sign | Source
Vintage GE Clock
Vintage GE Clock | Source
Shabby Chic Shelf
Shabby Chic Shelf | Source
Lottery Tickets
Lottery Tickets | Source
Cutting Board
Cutting Board | Source
Gift Basket
Gift Basket | Source

Simplify the Holidays

Why not make life easier for yourself and the people you love by introducing this as a new family tradition?

I have found that my family looks forward to this event. I think they actually enjoy shopping when they can focus on that one gift instead of overspending and running themselves ragged.

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Sherry Hewins

    Comments

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      • Sherry Hewins profile imageAUTHOR

        Sherry Hewins 

        4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

        Indian Chef - It's great for any occasion.

      • Sherry Hewins profile imageAUTHOR

        Sherry Hewins 

        4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

        poetryman6969, then you would have given a wonderful gift!

      • Sherry Hewins profile imageAUTHOR

        Sherry Hewins 

        4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

        KoraleeP, the stealing is the best part.

      • Sherry Hewins profile imageAUTHOR

        Sherry Hewins 

        4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

        You're right vocalcoach. It really gets the party going.

      • Sherry Hewins profile imageAUTHOR

        Sherry Hewins 

        4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

        Thanks for the sharing Denise. You should try it!

      • Indian Chef profile image

        Indian Chef 

        4 years ago from New Delhi India

        wow this sounds lots of fun. May be we can try that next Diwali. Voting it up and awesome

      • poetryman6969 profile image

        poetryman6969 

        4 years ago

        I could not bear to part with lottery tickets. Suppose they won? Expect an actually stuffed white elephant instead.

      • KoraleeP profile image

        Koralee Phillips 

        4 years ago from Penticton British Columbia Canada

        We did this one year and it was so much fun, especially the stealing part. But, in the end, everyone got the gift they wanted :D

      • vocalcoach profile image

        Audrey Hunt 

        4 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        This can be so much fun!

      • Denise Handlon profile image

        Denise Handlon 

        4 years ago from North Carolina

        Awesome hub, Sherry. I enjoyed learning more about the White Elephant gift exchange. I have to admit that I've never done it before. Thanks for share. :) Nice job. UP/U/I/A and shared.

      • Sherry Hewins profile imageAUTHOR

        Sherry Hewins 

        4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

        teaches12345 - I highly recommend it. Have fun.

      • Sherry Hewins profile imageAUTHOR

        Sherry Hewins 

        4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

        DzyMsLizzy - That sounds like a fun tradition.

      • DzyMsLizzy profile image

        Liz Elias 

        4 years ago from Oakley, CA

        Hm, my family never did this, (I was an only child, so just the 3 of us), but it was rather a tradition for someone to get a ridiculous, useless gag gift. One year, my dad and I wrapped up a set of old curtains from the rag bag for my mother; another year, my mom gave my dad a set of toy tires from a model car. (It was the year he retired, so the gift was a pun.) Those were our "White Elephant" gifts, as the saying originally implied a useless, unidentifiable, tchotchke that no one would want.

        Voted up and funny.

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 

        4 years ago

        This sounds like lots of fun. I may try this out with my family. Your suggestions are very helpful.

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