White Elephant parties are one of the most popular Christmas traditions, at least in the U.S. and Canada. It seems that every year, I'm invited to at least one. If you are unsure of what a white elephant gift exchange is, you can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_elephant_gift .
Many times people bring a white elephant gift that no one in his right mind would want, which makes sense, considering the origin of the term, "white elephant." In ancient times, particularly in Thailand, white (albino) elephants were very expensive to maintain. If a Thai king became dissatisfied with a subordinate, he'd give him a white elephant as a gift, because a gift that was so costly to maintain would likely ruin the person. Thus, the term, "white elephant" came to mean an unwanted possession that would be more trouble than it was worth.
Gag gifts can be a lot of fun, but if you're invited to a white elephant party this year or in the years to come, you might want to try one of these creative ideas:
WHITE ELEPHANT GIFT IDEA #1: GO GREEN
Have you subscribed to a magazine this past year that many people who will be at the party would enjoy? If so, and you still have all issues of the magazine from the past year, gather them up and present them as a white elephant gift. You'll declutter your home or apartment, give a gift someone will likely enjoy, and avoid adding one more thing to the landfill.
WHITE ELEPHANT GIFT IDEA #2: HIDDEN TREASURE
Take an old object that no one would like such as an outdated book or an old boot, and hide something "valuable" such as a Starbucks gift card inside. Especially if the white elephant party you are at involves people snatching gifts that have been claimed by others, keep quiet about the treasure inside of the gift, until the exchange is complete. Once you reveal the treasure in front of everyone, the person who thought he had a dud, will be the envy of all the other party goers.
WHITE ELEPHANT GIFT IDEA #3: LAZARUS
If the people at the party are a group that meets regularly for a white elephant Christmas party annually, a Lazarus gift is a great idea. Lazarus gifts are gifts that are resurrected year after year. For example, one year at a white elephant party, I got an indescribable strange, foreign stick doll that everyone at the party referred to as "Aunt Jemima." It was one of the funniest gifts exchanged that evening. As soon as I brought it home with me, I knew that I was going to hold on to that baby so that I could give it away at the white elephant party the next year. I didn't let on to anyone that I was planning on doing this, so when good old Aunt Jemima reappeared the next year, everyone howled. Aunt Jemima's appearance is now a regular part of the annual Christmas party. The question is, who will end up with Aunt Jemima this year?
WHITE ELEPHANT GIFT IDEA #4: HOBBY LOBBY
If the people at the party are part of a club or a group with the same hobby, and you are the host or hostess of the party, you can suggest a theme for the gifts. For example, a writer's group I'm in exchanged things that had something to do with writing such as journals, pens, etc. To keep it from being too dull, suggest that everyone bring the "wildest" or funniest or most beautiful gift they can find that fits with the overall theme.
WHITE ELEPHANT GIFT IDEA #5: MYSTERY THEATER
Do you have anything sitting around your house that is extremely odd? When people look at it, will they be baffled and have no idea what it is? If so, it will make an excellent white elephant gift! Yard sales and thrift stores are great places to find mysterious gifts, but this time of year, yard sales are uncommon and you may not have time to make it to the thrift store. If that's the case, head to your garage or basement and see what you can dig up that will make people scratch their heads in confusion.
WHITE ELEPHANT GIFT IDEA #6: CLASSIC WHITE ELEPHANT
One year when my family was in India, I came across a sandstone white elephant. It of course made me think of white elephant parties back home, so I bought it, knowing it would make an excellent white elephant gift in the future. The rest of the time in India, our family was on the lookout for more white elephants and we found them in various things such as coasters and Christmas ornaments. In the U.S. the selection of white elephants may be sparser than what I was able to find in India, but white (or other color) elephants can be found. Some possibilities are cards (which can be framed), paper weights, etc. Look in stores such as Pier 1 that are known for selling goods from different countries. If you find an elephant but it isn't white, you can tie a white ribbon around its neck to tie in the theme.
Whatever white elephant gift you bring, be prepared to laugh and have fun as various gifts at the party are despised, laughed at, and fought over. Maybe if you follow the suggestions in this article, the gift you bring will be the one people talk about for years to come.