30 Ideas for a White Elephant Gift Exchange
Finding just the right white elephant gift is a bit of an art. White elephant gifts are given usually at holiday parties as a party game and conversation starter. Great white elephant gifts must either be highly desirable or so bad that you just want to give them away. During a typical white elephant gift exchange, participants take turns unwrapping a gift or "stealing" a gift that someone else already unwrapped. Gifts may be stolen only twice, then that item is off limits. This prevents one or two items from being repeatedly stolen. The term "white elephant" is often attributed to any small, inexpensive gift, usually under $10, but some people consider gifts to qualify in the white elephant category only if the item is a re-gift. White elephant exchanges can be a lot of fun, but are not recommended for small children who are easily disappointed when a favored item is taken from them.
Here are 30 or so white elephant gift ideas that are sure to get a reaction during your next holiday party.
- Really weird Christmas ornaments. An over-sized blown-glass mosquito, a shark wearing a hula skirt and a coconut bra, a skiing pig or an ice-skating hippo all will work fine. All of these ornaments are selling at Target stores.
- Dancing animatronic Christmas dolls. The weirder, the better. One year we received a be-bopping fuzzball with ogling eyes and a beak that dances and sings to the tune of Deck the Halls in a jazz voice.
- A selection of Christmas Carols on 8 track or cassette tape.
- Self-help or promotional video tapes or audio cassettes from the 1970s.
- Obscure kitchen gadgets such as a garlic roaster.
- Specialty pet items such as a holiday pet sweater for a small dog.
- A box of chocolates that has been opened with obvious bite marks in the chocolates. I have seen this done more than once at a white elephant gift exchange, so I'm not sure how original the idea will seem to others, but if the idea is fresh, the look of shock on the gift recipient's face will be well worth it.
- A simmering bean pot. These stoneware kitchen items were must-haves during the 1970s.
- An aebleskiver pan. These unique Danish cooking pans are shaped like a frying pan but have several small round holes about the size of a donut hole inside for making ebelskivers. Attach a recipe for Ebelskivers or don't. This will be a much stolen gift.
- A "collectible" Avon cologne bottle.
- A scorpion in a glass paperweight.
- A blue light flashlight that is sold to help people identify scorpions which are nocturnal and fluorescent in the blue light.
- A Monchhichi doll. These dolls according to my daughter look like a cross between a badger and a monkey, but I think they look like a cute version of the ape men on Planet of the Apes. These "cute and cuddly" dolls were popular during the 1980s and are trying to make a comeback. These dolls are both too cute to be ugly and too ugly to be cute, and in the words of a friend "that is soooo creepy!"
- Smurf dolls are the original blue men. If you are lucky enough to have one of the original blue dolls from the 1980s hanging around your house, now is a prefect time to find Papa Smurf and all of the other hard-working smurfs a new home.
- A nativity set missing one key piece.
- A bag of miss-matched socks from the laundry room and a box of sweet smelling dryer sheets.
- A roll of unopened film from an old film-operated camera.
- In a sunny southwestern climate, consider giving cold-climate items, such a s a hat, gloves, scarf, and carrot and label it "instant snowman kit."
- Peel and stick magnetic photo albums. I don't know if these atrocious items are still for sale, but I have never met anyone who actually stored photos in these things.
- A Junior League cookbook with your favorite recipes highlighted.
- A collection of assorted movies from the 1980s including Ferris Buehler's Day off (on video cassette, of course), Say Anything, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Better Off Dead,or Desperately Seeking Susan starring Madonna.
- A T-shirt that says "I'm with Stupid." Better yet if the T-shirt is homemade using a permanent marker. You could also write "I came to so and so's Christmas party and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."
- Giant oversized office supplies such as a gigantic calculator or an oversized pencil are good selections for office gift exchanges. They are quite silly but still have a useful purpose.
- Clothing that is gaudy and tasteless will make a good white elephant gift. Think Elton John meets Elvis. A polyester zoot suit or pair of used bowling shoes fit this category. A slinky sized-two dress covered in gold sequins with a matching purse. A purple wig and Groucho Marx glasses, a pair of orange polyester pants with a lime green bowling shirt. Or going in a different direction, try a REALLY UGLY Christmas sweater.
- Signed "autographed" pictures of your favorite celebrities. Print a photo of your favorite ex-president or childhood celebrity, so think Gary Coleman from "Different Strokes" or Punky Brewster. George Bush was served up at a recent Christmas gift exchange and he was the hit of the party with an elected Democrat who happened to be there at the party with us. It is helpful if the autograph says something really out of character for the person in the photo.
- Out-of-style household décor items. When I was married 18 years ago my husband and I received a lamp that was made from a plastic trash can that had been turned up side down, drilled with hundreds of small holes, and then stuck full of Light-Bright pegs. This odd lamp hung from a chain and was easily the ugliest personal décor item I have ever laid eyes on, but it made a fantastic white elephant gift at a party I attended years later. Other items to consider are macrame plant hangers or 1980s-era geese. For years my parents had a pair of oversized wooden kitchen utensils that I would love to use as a white elephant gift.
- Strange-looking children's toys. Think Trollz or stuffed Star Wars Ewoks. Or what about those new Barbie dolls with the extra small heads and long bodies. These are rather bizarre looking in my opinion.
- Horehound candy. That stuff is foul tasting, and not too hard to find. Unsweetened black licorice that you could find at a health food store is another good choice. That stuff tastes like tire rubber.
- Speaking of health food stores, my last suggestion is any kind of over the counter medicine or treatments designed to treat embarrassing health conditions. Hemorrhoidal suppositories, do-it-yourself enema, bowel-cleansing kits, pin worm treatment medicine, head lice treamtment, or flea and tick shampoo. (Get the last one at the pet store).
- Now that we are on the subject of disgusting humor, I have to mention Walter the Farting Dog. This children's book by William Kotzwinkle is a gas.
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