Some people live to be gift givers and have the natural eye to pick just the right gift in any situation. The vast majority of us however are clueless when it comes to finding the perfect gift. Why not take the stress out of gift giving by using simple gift exchange games like White Elephant? Not only does a White Elephant gift exchange take the heavy personalized and creative burden out of gift giving, but it turns it into a fun gifting process. Let's go over what exactly White Elephant is, the rules, and the nuances.
White Elephant is a classic christmas gift exchange ideas and second only to secret santa. Each person involved purchases one gift, gifts are selected one by one randomly (we will discuss the order later), and the rest of the group has the opportunity to steal gifts already selected or to open a new gift. There are nuances and rules to the game we will explain later in the article. First let's go over the advantages of White Elephant as a gift exchange game, then followed by an example of how a game would play out.
The standard stressors of gift giving:
How White Elephant avoids those stressors:
A family reunion of 14 people decides to have a White Elephant gift exchange. They set a price range for $30 gifts. Upon entering the house, they all drop their gifts off at a central location (on the dining room table). They then select the order of the 14 gift selectors by drawing numbers 1-14 and putting them into a hat.
After the order is drawn, #1 picks any gift they want from the pile. They have to open the gift so everyone can see it. Next, #2 has the option to steal #1’s gift or pick a random gift from the pile.
If #2 steals the gift:
#1 picks a new gift from the central pile.
If #2 picks a new gift from the pile:
#3 now starts the process over deciding to steal gift #1, #2, or choosing from the pile.
…and so this continues.
The following should be discussed before playing; Deciding on price limits for gifts, Order selection process, Gift stealing process, and any other consideration or fun specifics the host decides (i.e. Nothing vulgar, no gift too large/heavy for airport concerns, genre specific like electronics only, etc)
The purpose of White Elephant is to make the gift giving experience more fun. Taking away the infinite price range and giving some parameters will help do this. For more intimate situations with close family members it may be closer to the $100 range. For work parties it could be simple under $25. Either way, these parameters help the gifter pinpoint ideas.
The standard order selection process can be done by any method similar to drawing straws. For instance, if you have 12 people in the White Elephant, you can write 1-12 on sticky notes, fold them up, shake around in a cup and have each person pick their gift selection number.
This is where the rules have seemed to shape-shift over the years. Let’s go over 3 of the more standard ways in which this process is done.
Gift: The gift itself can only be stolen 2x. After the 2nd steal of that gift, it is now locked to that giftee.
Giftee: Each giftee can only be stolen from 2x. If you have had your gift stolen 2x, the gift you now have is locked in as yours.
Unlimited: The gift and giftee have no limitations in the number of times they are forced to give up the item and choose from the central gift pile.
As you can see, the gift stealing process rules can really shape the way the game turns out. Regardless, it is almost certainly better to be closer to the end than the beginning as a giftee.
Over the years, this gift exchange game has evolved with new rules and fun iterations. To read up on the different versions and fun ways to spice up this classic game you can visit our previous article discussing this, Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas.
If you need help with creative gifts for a particular price range you can use our popular gift ideas generator to filter your exact needs and get great suggestions. Let us know your thoughts in the comments about what is your favorite version of White Elephant!
We've collected our users' most popularly posted gifts over the last year and filtered the results for the page you are on. Feel free to use the available filters to narrow down your search by age range, gender, location, and occasion. You can also use our price, popularity, rating, and vendor filters to narrow your results down further. These are our white elephant rules: how to play the game and have fun.