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Five Steps For a White Elephant Christmas Gift Exchange; Rules and Ideas For Work, Family and Friends

( [email protected] ) Dec 07, 2015 05:26 PM EST
If you are not familiar with "white elephant", it is a term derived from Asia, wherein a king would bestow a literal white elephant, a gift that costs more than it is actually worth due to the amount of maintenance required.  Today, it is often applied to deliberately homemade and/or tacky gifts at white elephant exchanges for work, family and friends, and it was possibly first used by Ezra Cornell at Cornell University.  Here are five steps about some white elephant Christmas gift exchange ideas, with rules and ideas for work, family, and friends.
White Elephant Gifts: A Holiday Tradition.

If you are not familiar with "white elephant", it is a term derived from Asia, wherein a king would bestow a literal white elephant, a gift that costs more than it is actually worth due to the amount of maintenance required.  Today, it is often applied to deliberately homemade and/or tacky gifts at white elephant exchanges for work, family and friends, and it was possibly first used by Ezra Cornell at Cornell University.  Here are five steps about some white elephant Christmas gift exchange ideas, with rules and ideas for work, family, and friends. 

1)       Set the Price Maximum at the Get-Go

It isn't difficult to get a White Elephant Gift exchange started, as it can be announced at any business meeting, friends meeting, or email or social media invitation.  You should definitely set a price point of a maximum at the beginning.  The last thing you want is someone investing a lot of money in a gift, and making the others look bad because they invested little or went homemade. 

2)      Get to Know the Person that You're Giving To

Many White Elephant gifts are a combination of the "Secret Santa" tradition where one co-worker or friend is given a name chosen at random.  If this is the case, then it is up to that Secret Santa giver to get to know the receiver to see what he or she might like.  If the "Secret Santa" tradition is on, then that giver has to be discreet, attempting to bring up gift ideas naturally in conversation. 

Finding the perfect gift can be difficult with a small white elephant budget, but it is quite doable.  For example, if the receiver likes cats, then a cat calendar would be quite an appropriate and useful gift.  Any kind of application, small as it might be, adds a personal touch and makes the relationship a bit more special. 

3)      Joke Gifts at Givers' Own Risk

It is highly not recommended that a workplace party have NSFW (not safe for work) gifts, as that could lead to an unpleasant experience.  Also, a joke gift could be just as harmful if the joke is not done in good fun, and the receiver doesn't appreciate the humor. 

4)      Get Ideas from Anywhere

Considering that white elephant gifts are often joking or holiday themed in nature, it is easy to find a lot of websites devoted to the purchase of gifts like this.  Miss Malaprop has a lot of funny ideas, all depending on the personality type and interests of the receiver.

Here are some other ideas:

  • Gift Card: As long as you stay under budget, this is a gift that keeps on giving as the receiver must decide how to spend it.
  • Picture Frame: Unlike the impersonal gift care, a picture frame can have any picture in it, preferably of a pleasant memory.
  • T-Shirt: Again, keep rule number 3 in mind, as no one wants to receive a shirt with a slogan or picture of something that one would be offended by. If nothing else, the shirt can be worn around the home.
  • Calendar: Always a good gift because it is always needed. The subject matter is infinite as well.
  • Board Game: This is always a good gift as it can be played at the white elephant gift exchange as part of the fun.

You might want to implement the optional "Yankee Swap" Rule.  This often doesn't work with a Secret Santa, as givers target their gifts toward a specific receiver.  However, it does allow one to either pick a gift at random or claim someone else's gift. 

5)      Have fun

Not even certain if that rule needs to be there, but it is Christmas, and you are exchanging gifts.  Even if you don't get the "best" gift, isn't it fun to give and receive?  It is what white elephant gift exchanges are all about.