How to Host a White Elephant Gift Exchange

So you want to host a white elephant gift exchange? Well, we’ve got the details right here… but make sure you’ve got the best White Elephant Gift! Check out our blog post with a ton of white elephant gifts under $15! You might also like this list of best gag gifts on Amazon!

White elephant gift exchange themes

What is a White Elephant Gift Exchange?

Here’s a little backstory from Wikipedia about the white elephant origin: “The term “white elephant” refers to an extravagant but burdensome gift that cannot be easily disposed of, based on the legend of the King of Siam gifting rare albino elephants to courtiers who had displeased him, that they might be ruined by the animals’ upkeep costs.”

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I’ve always wondered why they call it a white elephant gift exchange and that white elephant story really explains it! White elephant isn’t the only name for this popular gift exchange idea though. A few years ago I was in the Boston area for an event with CVS and I learned that on the east coast this is called a Yankee swap.

So, whether you call it a white elephant, secret Santa, Yankee swap, or Yankee Doodle, it is sure to be a good time full of laughter and smiles.

Christmas is pretty much my favorite time of year because everyone is just in jolly spirits. I love the idea of making others smile with simple gestures like a baked good or a gift.

That’s why I love white elephant gift exchange parties so much! Not only do you get to be with family and friends, but you get to celebrate the holiday season with a bunch of laughter.

The white elephant gift exchange is so much fun and it’s the perfect time for all those silly gag gifts you see all the time! Even better, the white elephant gift exchange is a great way to celebrate gift giving with large families without breaking the bank!

What is a white elephant gift exchange

White Elephant Gift Exchange Rules

There are so many different ways to host a white elephant gift exchange. These are just the basic guidelines and rules.

  1. Get your guest list ready!
  2. Set the price range. I usually see a $10-$15 price limit, but again, you can do as you like here! Traditionally the gifts are funny gag gifts but you can do whatever you’d like for the gifts!
  3. Once your guests arrive, it’s best to have the gifts sitting where everyone can see them. Typically the guests sit in a circle around the gifts but a line would also work.
  4. Have all of the guests draw from a hat to see what order they will go in, OR, to speed it up, start with the oldest/youngest and just move down the line or around the circle from there.
  5. The first person selects from the gift pool and opens it so that everyone can see what it is.
  6. The next player in line can either steal the person’s gift or choose to unwrap one.
  7. If guest #2 chooses to steal the gift, the first guest gets to unwrap another gift from the gift pool.
  8. Move your way through the line just like this. A gift can only be stolen once per turn though.

Fun right? How does it end though? Usually, it ends with the first person getting to swap one last time, their chance to steal a gift.

If they decide to steal a gift, the person they stole from can also steal from someone else. When someone does not want to steal a gift, the game is complete.

Want to know more about hosting a white elephant party? There’s a great Kindle book on hosting a white elephant party!

White elephant gift exchange themes

White Elephant Gift Exchange Ideas & Variations

If you want to make your gift exchange a bit more interesting, try out these fun variations!

  • Require everyone to wear ugly Christmas sweaters
  • Require that everyone bring gag gifts
  • Idea for kids or teens… have a cereal swap OR they have to bring something lying around the house, like toothpaste, green and red items only, etc.
  • The ultimate re-gift party version! Bring the items you have been gifted but don’t want from home!
  • Newlywed version: newlyweds always seem to have a stash of wedding gifts they aren’t using… they must bring one of those.
  • Dollar Store: gifts must come from the dollar store
  • Favorite Things Exchange: guests bring something that is one of their favorite things… when the gift is opened, the one that brought it explains what they love about the item.
  • Christmas Ornament Gift Exchange
  • Limit the swapping! Three swaps and the gift can no longer be swapped!

Looking for White Elephant Gift Ideas?

Finding a gift to bring to a white elephant gift exchange can be difficult. However, the internet makes it a lot easier if you know where to look.

To help you find the best, funniest gift, we’ve put together a couple of lists for you. Check out these funny gag gift ideas and these funny white elephant gifts under $15!

How to host a white elephant gift exchange and different variation ideas

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