White Elephant Gift Exchange
A White Elephant gift exchange is also known as a Yankee swap or a Dirty Santa gift exchange. It's a party game where amusing and impractical gifts are exchanged. The goal of a White Elephant gift exchange is to entertain participants rather than to gain something valuable or highly sought-after.
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White Elephant gift exchange rules
A White Elephant gift exchange can be played with lots of different rules. These are the basic White Elephant rules:
- Each participant brings one wrapped gift.
- The order is determined for opening the gifts.
- The first participant selects and opens a wrapped gift.
- The next participant unwraps a new gift or ‘steals’ someone else’s unwrapped gift.
- If your gift is stolen, you can unwrap a new gift or steal a gift from someone else.
- After everyone has had a turn, the first participant can swap their gift.
- The game goes on until someone declines to steal a gift.
Read White Elephant Rules for detailed rules and variations of White Elephant.
The best White Elephant gifts
The best White Elephant gifts can be funny, weird or just something nice. There are a lot of different approaches to buying a White Elephant gift, but as long as you stick to the instructions of your White Elephant gift exchange organizer you can’t go wrong.
Looking for a good gift for your White Elephant gift exchange? Find the best White Elephant gifts in our popular gift finder.
The term 'White Elephant'
The term White Elephant originated in Southeast Asia where monarchs used to possess white elephants. These animals were sacred and there were laws that protected them from performing any labour. So, when a monarch would give someone a white elephant as a present it was seen as both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because the animal was sacred and a curse because these animals were very costly to maintain. Nowadays the term is still used for an extravagant, impractical gift that cannot easily be disposed of.
White Elephant alternative
A popular alternative to a White Elephant gift exchange is a Secret Santa gift exchange in which participants are randomly assigned a person to whom they give a gift. The best thing about a Secret Santa gift exchange is that each participant gets a gift they actually want. Read how a Secret Santa gift exchange works in our article: What are the rules for Secret Santa.
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