Presents, Gifts, Christmas Tree

Christina Reichl/Getty Images

Ready for all those holiday parties? Of course you are. And unless you have committed to Secret Santa with your friends or you don't have any friends to begin with, chances are you have been invited to a holiday party that will involve a White Elephant gift swap.

For the uninitiated (or again, friendless), White Elephant gift swapping means you buy one gift to bring to a party, and the game starts when one person in your group picks a present from the pile. The next person can either steal that gift or pick a new one. And it goes round and round like that until everyone hates each other and no one got the gift they wanted. Basically.

Before you head out to those parties, here are some simple rules to not suck at White Elephant, and tips to suck at it if you really want to:

How to Not Suck at White Elephant

1. It's OK to Be Boring: As long as the present is nice. For example: A big, soft blanket is always appreciated, not matter what climate you live in. If you bring a fluffy blanket to a White Elephant party, it will get stolen the maximum allowed times. Guaranteed. But no gift cards, please. We're huge fans of gift cards overall, but not when it comes to White Elephant. Actually pick something out; don't just rip a $25 gift certificate to Applebee's off the wall at your local Wal-Mart.

2. Be Unexpected: Look, everyone is expecting holiday-themed stuff. A big Christmas mug packed with hot chocolate mix or a mason jar with the necessary supplies to make gingerbread cookies, for example. And that's fine. But to really win at White Elephant, you need to bring something that is so ridiculous and so weird that you will instantly become a favorite. Imagine the confusion your friend will feel when he or she opens up a box full of coasters that feature the cast members of Hangin' With Mr. Cooper. That reaction will keep you warm through the long winter months.

3. Toys, Toys, Toys: Never underestimate the power of adults wanting needing to play with toys again. Our personal favorites? A giant Nerf gun or walkie-talkies. Combining both of those with alcohol means the party is about to get awesome. You can hunt down the weak ones by communicating with your fellow drunk party goers from the bathroom.

4. Remember, Stealing Is Part of the Game: Yes, the gift you picked out is awesome. Who doesn't love a pile of fuzzy socks? But if you get all pissy when someone takes it away from you, you are not going to enjoy the rest of the night. Get into the action and strategize a way to steal that s--t back! Or find someone who is totally in love with their gift and ruin their evening. That's part of White Elephant, and it's magical.

5. When in Doubt, Booze: Bonus points if you include an object in which to drink said booze. (Wine glass, flask, Ziploc bag, etc.)

6. Keep It Moving, Keep 'Em Guessing: Hey, person who gets to go first: Stop shaking everything and voicing your inner thoughts about how each one was wrapped. We have 12 people to get through, so just pick a present and let's get going. And speaking of, White Elephant is much more entertaining if you wrap your gift to keep people guessing. Everyone knows what a DVD looks like when it's wrapped. Also, if you wrap wine or shot glasses, try to wrap them in a way that will stop them from clinking against each other when the box is moved. The game is over real quick when someone picks up your gift and hears the telltale tinkling of bottles knocking against each other.

How to Suck at White Elephant

1. Obvious Regifting: Regifting is totally fine in general, but don't make it blatantly obvious. And yes, we're talking about those who bring a gift they got at last year's White Elephant party. You're not fooling anyone with that "Katie Holmes Is Free" T-shirt from 2012.

2. Packing Gifts in Something You Clearly Want to Get Rid Of: This one goes out to all those folks who put their White Elephant gifts into old coolers, reusable shopping bags they don't want anymore or a broken crock pot. "Does the mini-cooler come with the Bring It On DVD?" is not a question you should be asking. Unless you need a cooler, in which case…score!

3. Be Cheap: White Elephant gifts are above all supposed to be goofy, and the origin actually means giving gifts that actually inconvenience the receiver. But these are your friends, so go above five bucks and spring for a scented candle and a desk calendar. 

We and our partners use cookies on this site to improve our service, perform analytics, personalize advertising, measure advertising performance, and remember website preferences. By using the site, you consent to these cookies. For more information on cookies including how to manage your consent visit our Cookie Policy.