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How to Host a White Elephant Gift Exchange Party

Updated on July 10, 2014

One Man's White Elephant is Another Man's ......?

Have some fun, unload some junk.  My family has embraced a relatively new holiday tradition called a White Elephant Gift Exchange.  I am not sure what that says about me or my family but one thing is for sure.  WE HAVE FUN!

There is probably a good chance you have had an opportunity to participate in a White Elephant Gift Exhange but may be lacking the details on how to host your own successful party. 

I am going to share a few ideas on how to make your next holiday party gift exchange a huge success.


2014's Hottest Gifts, Future White Elephants - Buy now, dispose later.

Just think of it as preparing for the future.

Yes Virginia there is a "White Elephant"

What is it?

If you have been invited to a holiday party and asked to bring a "White Elephant Gift" you might scratch your head and think, "What is a White Elephant?"

I like this definition from

white elephant


1. A rare, expensive possession that is a financial burden to maintain.

2. Something of dubious or limited value.

For the purpose of the "White Elephant Gift Exchange" lets assume it's an item of limited value and so ugly it's beautiful or just plain silly.

In fact, I now hold a "family heirloom" which could easily be a replacement for the term "White Elephant" which I refer to as the "Velvet Matador."

The "Velvet Matador" hung in my grandparents basement for nearly 30 years before it arrived at the "White Elephant Gift Exchange" in 2005 at my aunt and uncles holiday party.

FYI, one mans "Velvet Matador" may be another man's (uncles)childhood gift to his father with money scrounged up to purchase a painting from a gas station's junk peddler.

Gimme The Rules

Rules for the White Elephant Gift Exchange

The basic overview of the game is that everyone who is participating in the exchange has brought a "White Elephant Gift." It should be wrapped with no reference to what it is or who brought it.

Tip: Designate a pile for "White Elephant Gifts" in advance so you don't mix up with the "real gifts."

Everyone will get the opportunity to choose or steal a gift.

You will want to give your guests some guidance on your invitation. Define what type of "White Elephant Gift" is appropriate for your party.

-under $10



-gag gift

-ugliest ornament

-pick a theme of your own

How to get started:

1) Get a count of participants and draw numbers based on the number of people participating.

Tip: Create your numbers in advance and have them ready to be put in a hat.

2) Start choosing gifts. The person who drew #1 goes first and opens their gift then #2 and so on.

3) After the first person picks each successive person has the opportunity to choose an unopened gift or "steal" a gift from somebody who has already chosen. If your gift is stolen you now get to choose an unopened gift or steal another opened gift excluding the just stolen gift. After the stealing and such as been completed continue on with numerical order until everyone has a gift.

Optional Rules:

-after a gift is stolen 3 times it is "dead" and cannot be stolen again

-the person who picked first has the opportunity to now "steal" after all gifts are opened

The Hostess with The Mostest

"Secrets of a White Elephant Host or Hostess"

If you follow the above guidelines you are sure to have a blast but over the years I have picked up a few tips or tweaks that can put your party over the top.

-Establish a "Traveling White Elephant" the gift that keeps on giving. You will know it when you see it. Mark a gift as must "Re-Gift" at following years party.

-Have everyone attach a gift card or certificate to their "White Elephant" at a predetermined value of $10-$20.

-Have some extra "White Elephants" wrapped and available for guests who forgot to bring a gift. Everyone should participate if possible.

-For office party gift exchanges have a theme related to work related gag gifts that will "help with productivity"

-Have a "door prize" for best or worst "White Elephant Gift" chosen by the senior or oldest person at the party. This should be of value to encourage creativity.

White Elephant Gift Ideas - Vote For or Add a Favorite.

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The sound activated on and off switch. The Clapper can control one or two appliances at the same time, 2 claps for the first appliance and 3 claps for the second. Set the dial to home or away. A sound sensitivity dial adjusts for softer or louder claps.

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Don't miss out on anything. Brings all sounds even closer.

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Gadgets My Friends

Leave your comments just not your "White Elephant" - You won it now you dispose of it.

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    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 6 years ago from Virginia

      Lets let the elephants run. This should be great fun.

    • CrossCreations profile image

      Carolan Ross 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Love white elephant gift parties and picked up some good tips here, thanks.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago


    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      We love the white elephant gift party so much we have built a Facebook application that mimics the real deal... We call it AlbinoPhant.

    • thepartyanimal2 profile image

      thepartyanimal2 9 years ago

      Great info - post your lens on my Squidoo Home for the Holidays under: Holiday Parties -

    • profile image

      rylblu59 10 years ago

      Good topic very interesting.

    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      What a great lens! I had heard of white elephant parties, but have never participated. It sounds like a lot of fun. Maybe next year we'll have a white elephant party just for fun!

    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      I love white elephant parties! You never know what to expect, and the enthusiasm always runs high...thanks for a great lens about a unique party idea!


      : )

    • coachbriany lm profile image

      coachbriany lm 10 years ago

      I would love a picture of that.

    • kerbev profile image

      kab 10 years ago from Upstate, NY

      I recently unloaded a christmas ornament of a squid atop a jar of peanut butter, complete with rhinestones and a wee bit of glitter.