So, you’ve been invited to yet another white elephant gift-exchange party, eh? You’ve been thinking about what you are going to bring, and nothing interesting comes to mind. Well, before you run to the dollar store, read on. I’ve been to many of these gift-exchange get-togethers. I rarely leave in good spirits because I have high expectations of the gift I’ll be returning home with. I frequently get stuck with a piece of junk. (Usually because someone else had no clue what to bring, and ran out to the dollar store…) I have some helpful hints for both the white-elephant newbie, and the seasoned party-goer. I also have some ideas for some great gifts from around your house to bring along with you this holiday party season. Here are some hints about what or what not to bring! If you follow these guidelines, you are sure to be a good party guest!
Helpful hint #1: Find out from the host what is to be expected…
Ask the host/hostess whether you should bring serious gifts, gag gifts, or a mixture. Trust me, it’s never fun to be the person who receives a gag gift at a party where everyone else gets treasures!
Helpful hint #2: Bring something that you would be happy to receive/Don’t give junk!
You would think that this would be a “given”, but far too many times I’ve been utterly speechless at the thoughtlessness of the gift I’ve drawn. At a party just weeks ago, I brought a gift that was hard to find in my region of China…real Italian pasta! I was excited to see the face of the person who drew that gift. They were happy! When it was my turn to choose, I opened the package to find a single crayon and a packet of tissues. Needless to say, I was a little angry. Bring something you would be proud to own-up to after the fact!
Helpful hint #3: Know the crowd of people you will be partying with…
Remember to think about the people that you will be with, and pick a gift accordingly. I’ll never forget the “White elephant ornament exchange” with my bible study group. One person thought it would be hilarious to bring a “racy” ornament and gauge the reaction. Lo and behold, our Pastor showed up to the party with his wife, a member of the study. Now, what ornament do you think he drew? We were all a little embarrassed that night.
Helpful hint #4: Don’t be inappropriate!
Don’t bring things that are embarrassing, either directly or indirectly. Also, don’t bring gifts that are just plain gross. Know your crowd. If gross is the norm, then by all means bring it on. Otherwise, use discretion! I remember another gift-exchange party that I attended where one guest thought it would be funny to bring a roadside gift-shop “treasure”. Everyone else brought nice things like candles, picture frames, etc., while this guy offered a (wait for it…) dried cow patty on a stick!! It came complete with google eyes. I was the unfortunate recipient of that “crap”. That gave a whole new meaning to the term “gag gift”.
Helpful hint #5: If there is a dollar amount for the gifts, take it seriously.
If your host tells you to please bring gifts in the $10-$20 range, do it! In my book, this means anywhere from $9-$22. You can spoil the party by going far over or far under this limit. When someone opens a $50 gift, and everyone else is stuck with dollar store junk, hurt feelings may happen, but this is rarely the problem. Usually people come with things far cheaper than the limit. At yet another workplace party we were told to bring $10 presents. I was new to the unit, so I didn’t really know my co-workers that well. I brought a $10 gift certificate to a large discount-shopping chain store. This was a hit. In return, I wound up with a $0.49 head of cabbage. I wish I was joking. I was livid! I was the only person who returned home with junk that evening. Everyone else sure got a good laugh out of it, but I was very upset. (Now that I think about it, why do I keep tormenting myself by going to these parties?!?)
After having attended so many of these events, I have gathered a lot of insight on what makes a good gift! Here are some gifts that I’ve brought or seen other people bring that are really nice, and get fought over the most!
Gift Idea #1: Previously-viewed DVD’s
Maybe someone gave you a DVD for Christmas last year that just didn’t fit in with your movie tastes. This is a great way to give it a new home!
Gift Idea #2: Previously-read novels
Why not encourage literacy by passing along a great book or two that you’ve enjoyed?
Gift Idea #3: Turn trash into treasure!
I don’t know how many people over the years have given me those tacky, holiday coffee mugs. I like to take them and fill them with (new!) tea bags, instant coffee packets, and candies, wrap them up with a nice piece of tulle, or plastic if you haven’t got tulle, and throw on a ribbon…presto! Gift-basket quality present for very cheap!
Gift Idea #4: Trash into treasure part 2!
Just take a cleaned-out mayonnaise jar (or any equally big jar) that was destined for the trash bin, and fill it with the dry ingredients necessary to make cookies! Be sure to decorate the jar with ribbons or wrapping paper. (to cover the glue marks, or the lid) Be sure to include on a slip of decorative paper what wet ingredients are needed to complete the recipe, and baking times/temperatures. I’ve seen this in stores for way more than it would cost to make yourself. This is a cheap gift, and also very thoughtful!
Gift Idea #5: Homemade goodness!
Are you known for your cooking abilities? Do people rave about your recipes? Why not print out 5-10 of them and make a little personal cookbook to give away? I’ve seen this done by one of my friends, and people really fought over it!
Gift Idea #6: Secret surprise!
Why not take something boring and make it exciting! One year I put three rolls of toilet paper into a bag and wrapped it. The person who opened it looked a little disheartened until another party guest noticed the surprise sticking out of one roll… a $20 bill! That ended up being the sought after gift of the party!
Well, I hope these ideas and tips help you this holiday season! See you at the party!