Legend has it that the king of Siam would give rare albino elephant to those who had disappointed him in the hopes that the recipient would fall into financial ruin due to the upkeep costs.  The central theory is that the gift has an apparent but false air of extravagance, and misses the mark, resulting in a new possession that is actually quite burdensome and doesn’t lend itself to easy disposal.  A White Elephant gift exchange partially circumvents this by allowing participants to dispose of their gifts by exchanging for a more desirable or more easily disposed of gift, albeit temporarily.  Therein lies the rub, and the fun, as you know you and everyone else are eventually going to be stuck with varying degrees of hilarity and junk.

Basic Rules:

All the participants bring one wrapped gift each.  You can draw numbers or otherwise decide the order in which participants will take their turn at opening a gift.  The first person has a go and unwraps a gift of their choosing.  After the first person has a turn, the next person has the option of opening another gift or can take the gift that has already been opened.  Each subsequent participant follows the same process and can steal any other person’s opened gift.  If your gift is stolen, then you have the option of opening another gift or stealing someone else’s.  Generally, it is recommended to allow the person who went first to have the option to steal anyone’s gift after everyone has had a turn.

Here are some fun variations on this theme:

Some folks set a rule that a gift can only be stolen once per turn, or is unable to be stolen after a set number of times that it has been taken from someone else.  Some turn this into a drinking game, where the stealer of the gift has to take a shot, and if it’s been stolen multiple times, they have to take a shot for each time it has been stolen in order to steal it for themselves.  This could get ugly.

Or, you could always limit the number of times an individual can be stolen from.  You can also mark the gifts as suitable for a man or woman, but in our view, that takes some of the fun out of it.  You could also leave all the gifts wrapped until the end, so people are just stealing wrapped presents, but this is probably more fun for young kids.

Now for the fun part…choosing a gift should be as fun as opening and stealing them.  Depending on the crowd, the more outrageous, the better.  Or, if it’s a really stuffy crowd or a company party, AND you can contribute your gift anonymously, then definitely the more outrageous the better.

In order to get the juices flowing with some ideas…here are some…ideas:


Personally, the best White Elephant gift I ever received is a variation of this George Costanza picture, which is posted above, whereby the person providing the gift had a picture made of himself in this pose.  Although I don’t display it, I still have it.


What about you?  Do you have any ideas or care to share the best White Elephant gift you’ve ever received?  If so, tell us about it below or submit something in the “CONTACT US” page of this site and we’ll review it for posting live on the site.

As of this writing, there’s less than two months to go before these parties take place, so find your White Elephant gift now!

Thanks for reading!


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