If you’ve hosted a holiday dinner or party, you quickly realize takes some serious planning to create a magical evening. Add the stress of trying to find perfect gifts, and the thought of hosting a holiday party can bring out the Grinch in anyone.
But this year – why not try something different? If you haven’t hosted a White Elephant Gift Exchange before – this fun and easy holiday party is the perfect reason to try something new!
A White Elephant Gift Exchange is a gift swap where participants bring whimsical, nonsensical (or otherwise funny) gifts harkening back to the ancient legend of King Siam in Thailand. It was said that King Siam would gift rare white elephants to those who displeased him. White elephants were considered sacred animals and thus restricted from any manual labor, meaning the recipient could neither dispose of nor benefit from the animal – leaving the recipient stuck with a useless “gift.”
In modern times, hosting this delightful gift exchange comes with several holiday stress-busting, and budget-friendly benefits, making it the perfect party to host – particularly if you are renting a home or a crash pad!
Eases Entertaining Expectations
One of the top advantages of hosting a White Elephant gift exchange, is that entertainment centers on the fun of swapping gifts, versus the expectation of a full holiday production. It’s perfectly acceptable for the menu to include simple light snacks, beverages, and cookies, because the star of the show for this party, is FUN!
Hosting is easy and the rules couldn’t be simpler.
- Set a dollar amount for a spending threshold.
- Purchase just one gift.
- As the host, count the number of guests, write numbers on small slips of paper – then have guests draw numbers to determine the order of selecting gifts.
- The first person opens a wrapped gift, then their turn ends.
- On subsequent turns, each person has the choice to either unwrap a new present or to “steal” another’s. When a person’s gift is stolen, that person can either choose another wrapped gift to open, or steal from another player.
- Steals are usually limited to two, i.e. a gift can only be “stolen” twice.
- The game is over when everyone has a present – and gifts can no longer be “stolen.”
- Bonus rule – Since the first player is the only one without the option of seeing any unwrapped gifts, they often get a final turn after all the gifts have been opened and can swap with any gift, that can still be stolen.
As the wrapping paper flies, it doesn’t take long for the only standing expectation from the crowd, is more laughter.
Excellent Ice Breaker
As a host, the ability to provide guests (especially those who barely know anyone) with a unified goal, graciously side-steps the “shop talk” and transforms a stuffy get-together, into an evening of fun.
Laughter is a universal ice breaker, and unlike a dinner party – where the emphasis tends to be on the meal, a White Elephant pulls in guests, with full engagement. Each attendee is involved in the fun, and the easy focus of conversation turns to the anticipation of unveiling the next gift.
Add Last-Minute Guests Easily
No one appreciates last-minute dinner guests – particularly when place settings and calculated serving sizes are involved. But in a White Elephant exchange – it’s easy to graciously accommodate unexpected guests. The only requirement is that to draw a gift, the guest must have brought a gift in return. Even if they are a surprise, “+ 1”, the newcomer can be easily welcomed and watch the fun, making hosting a party far more manageable, and less stressful.
Budget-Friendly and Fun
Hosting a full holiday dinner is expensive, not to mention time-consuming, particularly if you also find yourself in need of new serving and bakeware to successfully pull off the event.
Paired with a light menu – that doesn’t have to include all the trimmings, hosting a White Elephant exchange is a huge timesaver and a welcome breath of fresh air for any holiday budget; both as a host – and as a guest.
White Elephant Ideas
Need help getting those creative juices flowing? Try these budget-friendly ideas.
- Your local bookstore, or stationery section (or online), for creative calendars, funny coffee table books, and more.
- Small appliances, particularly the “As-seen-on-TV” versions, such as S’mores makers, Hello Kitty waffle irons, and snow cone machines make for an unexpected, and hilarious gift.
- Your local store’s garden section is a gold mine of White Elephant décor. Choose from garden gnomes and flamingoes, lawn ornaments, or Chia pets (who’ve kept up surprisingly well with current events).
- An Ugly Christmas sweater – the gaudier the better.
- Themed towels, blankets, or linens. There’s definitely a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) bath set, or Elvis blanket just waiting to live its best life as the star of a White Elephant party.
Whether you are in your “home away from home” with a TDY or adapting to a new PCS, there are several reasons why a White Elephant is the perfect holiday party to host. You may even discover it quickly becomes one of your favorite holiday traditions!
Written by: Kristi Adams