Thursday, December 8, 2011

White Elephant

Let's talk about the Christmas tradition of the White Elephant Gift Exchange.  Many of you are confused.

A White Elephant gift is, basically, a gag gift.  It can be humorous or odd or useless, but it cannot be a chenille blanket, a set of lovely candles, or anything from Hickory Farms.

Too many people think that a White Elephant gift exchange is when a group of people get together and exchange gifts.  That is wrong.  If you want to give a pretty ornament or bath salts, you need to call it a gift exchange, Yankee Swap or Secret Santa.  You cannot call it a White Elephant.  

Don't believe me?  Here.

Because the animals were considered sacred and laws protected them from labor, receiving a gift of a white elephant from a monarch was simultaneously both a blessing and a curse: a blessing because the animal was sacred and a sign of the monarch's favour, and a curse because the animal had to be retained and could not be put to much practical use, but cost a significant amount to maintain. 

To keep with the spirit of the white elephant, the gifts are often gifts the participants have received outside of the game but do not want. 
 This problem is becoming more widespread.  If you have been invited to a "White Elephant" gift exchange, you'd better call to clarify.  They may be confused about the correct usage the the term.  All of the gifts in the pool might be from Restoration Hardware while you brought a used sandwich maker.

And, please.  Tell your friends.


  1. haha! This is CLASSIC. The best white elephant gift we ever gave was a set of country blue bathroom rugs - the icky ones that go around the base of the toilet. They were about 5 years old & we were just tired of them.

  2. My husband and I had an argument about this very thing last night. He thinks I (and I guess you) am wrong. I brought some Scentsy blocks that I didn't like after warming them opened, of course, to a white elephant gift exchange last week. He brought a gift certificate to his exchange today at work. Hmmmm. I should have him read your blog. ;o)

  3. We did a white elephant at work one year. I brought a theme gift that was the un-merry Christmas. There waswas a story that went with everything. There was a cd with some sad Christmas songs, for when you need a good cry: The Cat Carol, Christmas Shoes, His Favorite Christmas Story, Christmas Day by Dido, Blue Christmas, Where Did We Go Wrong from the Phineas & Ferb Christmas special, and Christmas in the Trenches. Then was the movie Superman: Doomsday, where Superman dies; the Barbie Christmas Carol, because you want to watch a rendition of a classic Christmas story, and all you get is Barbie (although it was cute :) ); and for when you finally are sad enough and want to just get drunk, sparkling cider instead of alcohol.

    I got a set of nested empty boxes. :) Actually they were very nice boxes, that I used to put presents in.