Secret Santa is fun, but my preferred gift exchange game is White Elephant. It can be a little stressful to get assigned a person to get a gift for, especially if it’s a group like coworkers or a large organization where you might not know everyone that well. Personal gifts are really tricky and you feel like you’re not able to get something a little more generic.
White Elephant is great because you don’t know who is going to go home with your gift. The rules vary from group to group, but it’s a lot of fun to see gifts exchange hands and the different reactions to gifts. What matters isn’t who bought what for whom but the fun in the game.
There are a few approaches to White Elephant. Some folks play the variation my friends call “Pass the Trash”, where you bring in a gift that maybe no one wants. This can result in some troll-tastic gifts. It’s also a great place for rejected gifts from past years to show up. One man’s trash can be another man’s treasure, so this could be great for some folks! It also results in a lot of laughs. Some examples I’ve seen from this variation include a $20 bill superglued in a mason jar, a signed photo of another participant, and the leg lamp from A Christmas Story.
I don’t like playing that way and try to think of something that people will like and have a fun with. (Just not a lot of troll in me…) Here’s three suggestions to help you think of things to pick up for a White Elephant exchange you might be doing that has a spending cap of $10. Remember, with a lot of deals coming up on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you might be able to make that $10 stretch quite far!
FUNKO POP! VINYL TOYS// Funko makes cute vinyl figurines for every franchise you can think of. Disney? Superheroes? Video games? TV shows? Movies? They’ve got ’em, usually for a little over $9. They can be tricky for White Elephant because Funko Pop! toys are one of my go-to gifts for friends who are in fandoms, and it’s harder to have any one toy appeal to every person participating in the gift exchange. You can pick something that most people are interested in — like a movie or show or game the group has discussed often — and hope that one of the folks who has an interest in it either chooses the gift or steals it! These can be purchased from a bunch of online retailers like Amazon or ThinkGeek and at physical stores like Hot Topic and Barnes & Noble.
FUN DRINKWARE // A lot of us have too many mugs and cups, SO if you are able to find fun drinkware, this works out great! Again, this could be tricky because it can be easier to get a mug or cupfor a specific person, but you are free to be a little more broad here. For example, if your Greek organization is participating, you can get a tumbler with your letters on it. Some fun options include those heat change mugs and cups that have a special shape to them, if you don’t want to risk it with the text or design that is printed onto the item itself.
NOVELTY CANDY // Along with that book, I felt the need to beef up that gift with some Pop Rocks, which, for the record, are always a lot of fun to watch people open up and eat and share. Things that fall into this category are sweets that you wouldn’t ordinarily get but are super fun and enjoyable anyway, maybe for their novelty. Other examples include Japanese Kit-Kat flavors you can’t find in your usual grocery, astronaut ice cream, and anything that tastes like bacon. (Why is there bacon-flavored everything??)
Before this post gets too long, I think I just want to say that White Elephant gift exchanges should not be stressful. If you get anxious trying to pick out the perfect gift for a specific person, this format of gift exchange should relieve a lot of that anxiety. As long as the recipient(s) can tell that you got the gift with their enjoyment in mind, they’ll have fun with it!
(And if it’s better than the box of condoms and can of Spaghetti-Os I once received, you’re solid.)
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What’s the best and worst White Elephant gift you’ve ever received or seen at a gift exchange?