White elephant gift exchanges have sprung up all over the place, in all sorts of settings. The practice seems to have morphed from the original idea of bringing something that you found around the house that you don’t want, into a thrifty and easy way to exchange gifts among a large group. Whether your white elephant gift exchange is at your office, among the members of your family, or among your friends, finding something that will be hotly contested can be difficult. But I have a few sure-fire ideas that will be a hit in each of these settings.
Somehow, the best options for an office white elephant gift exchange seem to revolve around food. Gift baskets containing an array of food options are a nice, fairly generic gift that most co-workers could appreciate. If gift cards are permissible in your white elephant gift exchange (they are not universally acceptable), a gift card or certificate to a new local restaurant might be a great choice for the office. If it’s within walking distance of the office, all the better. If you prefer to steer away from food, amusing day-by-day calendars are likely to be a hit – just hope that the boss doesn’t end up with the “Dilbert” calendar. Maybe it’s better to stick with “The Far Side” or word-a-day calendars, instead.
Though family white elephant gift exchanges are probably the most rare of these three, they do occur. Between my dad and my aunt, there are nine children, and over half of those children are married with children of their own. The adults on that side decided that a white elephant gift exchange was a good idea a few years ago. Though I wasn’t able to participate that year, the gifts with which my sister and her husband walked away made me wish that I had. Household items tend to be the best bet in this sort of setting – picture frames, a set of drinking glasses, or candles are all good ideas. Somehow, when people think of practical Christmas gifts, they cover the socks and underwear, but not household items. Nearly everyone in your family is likely to be able to find something they can use when it comes to household gifts. I do not, however, recommend taking the socks and underwear approach to a family white elephant gift exchange, even in retaliation for the years of strangely patterned socks that I received from one elderly relative.
Anything that you have in common with your friends is usually a good starting point for choosing a gift for a white elephant gift exchange. For example, in my circle of friends, who are brought together through gaming, other geeky topics, and (occasionally) drinking, the best bets tend to be games, comic-related items, and alcohol. Obviously, this list would not apply to all groups of friends, making this one of the more difficult categories for which to give suggestions. Games, however, are usually a great suggestion for any group of friends, especially as there are many board games to choose from in the typical price range for a white elephant gift exchange. The recent popularity of poker (particularly Texas Hold ‘Em) makes a poker set a great white elephant gift to bring, and the availability of such sets is widespread. Movies might also be a good idea here, especially if it’s a relatively new release. The nice thing about a white elephant gift exchange is that if the recipient already has the movie in question, or doesn’t like it, there is a pretty good chance that they can trade it off before the end of the game. Make sure that it’s a movie that didn’t suck, however. I hope to never end up grabbing another copy of “Return of the Living Dead” in the last round of the game.
The most important thing to remember about choosing a gift for a white elephant gift exchange is that your best bet is something that you would want to receive. There is always a chance of taking home what you brought, unless stipulations prevent such a thing. Also, assuming you know the group you will be exchanging gifts with, choosing something you would want to receive is a good sign that someone else in the group would also like to receive such a thing. Personally, I think it is a lot of fun when people are fighting over the white elephant gift you brought.