How to Win at White Elephant This Year

By: Brigid Coyne

Christmas is only days away and for many, that means it’s time for the annual White Elephant party with coworkers or friends. White Elephant is a holiday tradition that has taken on many different styles. For some, it’s an excuse to buy the most creative gag gift imaginable, and for others, it is a fierce competition to come up with the most lavish present ideas.

For those who have never played, White Elephant is a Christmas gift-exchange game. Each participant brings a wrapped gift and places it under the tree. The first person must choose a present and unwrap it. The twist comes in with successive players, who may choose to take another wrapped present from under the tree or to steal the unwrapped gift of another player. If a player’s gift is stolen, he or she may choose another gift. This goes on until each player has a gift.

Whatever the style of your White Elephant party, there always seems to be an unspoken contest to bring the best gift! Sometimes that’s the funniest gift and other times it’s whichever one is stolen by the most people. No matter what the guidelines, The Front Porch People will help you get creative with your gift to make sure you win White Elephant this year!

Here are our tips on giving the perfect White Elephant gift:

1. Combine Utility and Humor:

White Elephant is about having fun so some element of humor is encouraged. However, too often this turns into people giving lots of junk that gets thrown away the next morning. Instead of wasting money on something that will never be used, try to find a funny gift that is still practical. You can’t really go wrong with something from the “As Seen on TV” aisle of the store!

Another way to address utility is to find something of value that has a funny theme/design on it. If your friends love watching “The Office,” consider a “World’s Greatest Boss” mug inspired by Michael Scott. Along the same lines, you could buy stickers specific to your friend group (any inside jokes or favorite movies), and use them to enhance anything you choose to give. Everybody knows an Apple phone case with a sticker of Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter, Apple, on it is so much better than a plain one. However, the good part about that gift is that people could actually use the case, removing the sticker if so inclined.

2. Focus on the Packaging:

People always say “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” but in this game you don’t have much choice. The packaging is all you have to go by when choosing your present from under the tree, so make sure to think through your wrapping strategy. If you’re giving a luxurious, high-end gift, maybe try to be deceptive by throwing it in a brown paper bag to fool other players. If your W.E. party is more oriented toward gag gifts, wrap your gift in the funnies page from the newspaper (Bonus Idea: use lots of duct tape!). There is really no limit to how crazy you can get with packaging; consider poking holes in a box to make your friends think that something is alive inside the box! If your gift wrap makes a statement, it will likely be one of the first selected.

3. Give the Gift of Life:

Instead of just wrapping a box as if there is a living creature inside, actually consider making a stop at your local pet store! A goldfish and bowl would be a hilarious but enjoyable gift for anyone to take home. But if you doubt your friends' ability to care for pets, it might be worth sparing the life of a poor fish. Instead you could give a lower-maintenance (and arguably funnier) gift: ANTS! An ant farm requires absolutely no work, but can provide entertainment for weeks. Read the fine print to make sure you order one that comes with the ants!

4. Don’t Undervalue Gift Cards:

Our final piece of White Elephant wisdom is to remember gift cards! Gift cards are a great way to supplement your gag gift. If you give the Michael Scott mug, throw in ten bucks to Dunkin’ Donuts. If you’re doing the infomercial idea and give a "Shake Weight,” a gift card to your nearest sporting goods store would be a great bonus. This is a great way to make sure that the person who ends up with your gift will have more use for it than simply providing a few laughs at the party.

Take-away: Find the balance between humor and practicality, and your gift is sure to be a hit!

Bonus: For more holiday fun, listen to our review of the 2008 film, "Four Christmases:"

Full Review:

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