illustration of a white elephant, along with wrapped holiday gifts
Opinions, Trends,

I’m Dreaming of a White Elephant: The Look Listen Guide to Holiday Gag Gifts

The holidays are here, and for many of us across this great nation, they include an office (or family, or friend group) white elephant gift exchange. We’ve got some solid suggestions to help bring you gifting glory, but first: a quick refresher on exactly what white elephant exchanges entail.

Also known as Yankee swap or dirty Santa depending on your neck of the woods, a white elephant exchange is a game typically played at holiday parties that involves giving, trading, or stealing impractical, irreverent gifts for a laugh. The term “white elephant,” according to legend, stems from the kingdom of Siam (now Thailand), where the king was said to gift rare, albino elephants to those in the court he disliked. The animals were expensive and hard to care for, but also widely revered, so could not be disposed of or used for labor. Whether or not the legend is true, the name has stuck.

In the early 1900s, white elephant gift exchanges started to grow in popularity in America, even inspiring a widespread joke about women bringing their husbands as the “useless” items they wanted to regift. The rules of the exchange have solidified over the years, and — as it’s still enjoyed at parties across the country — white elephant seems to have stood the test of time.

Which brings us to the gift guide. As you plan your white elephant purchase, you want to be clever and memorable, without spending a lot of money. True white elephant prestige is when your gift is brought back year after year, delighting guests on repeat. We asked our staff what some of their favorite white elephant offerings have been, and now we’re thrilled to regift their ideas to you…

For the nostalgic:

hand holding a 5th generation iPod Classic

For the word nerd:

A box of Shakespearean insult bandages

For the quirky

For the person who forgot and has to find something at home 10 minutes before the party:

Family glamour shot of three girls from Awkward Family Photos
  • Framed Photo of Your Family (the more awkward, the better)
  • Large Butternut Squash (truly a practical gift if you think about)
  • Any CD (but it’s best if it’s Nickelback)
  • Irreverent Coffee Table Book (do you have this one?)
  • Child-size Drum Kit (your kid might miss it, but you won’t)

Happy Gifting!

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