At many holiday parties, the trend has become doing a white elephant gift exchange, in which all attendees of the party bring a gift. In case you’ve never done this type of exchange, here is a quick explanation: The gifts are placed in a pile in the center of the table or floor where all participants can sit around. Each participant then draws a number to see who picks up the first gift. The first person opens any gift, and the second person decides whether to steal the first gift or open a new one. Each participant thereafter can steal a gift from anybody, or open a new one.
Now, the key to making this party successful is to have a good variety of gifts that anybody can enjoy or appreciate so that nobody will walk away disappointed. My very first experience with this party I was lucky enough to walk away with the present I really wanted, but some of the gifts left much to be desired. Here are a few tips for what to consider when buying gifts for this type of party:
– Winter clothing accessories. Hats, gloves, scarves in a gender-neutral color (i.e. not bright pink) could be good for anybody, unless of course you live in a climate that isn’t very cold during the winter. Even if the person who ends up with these items already has them, it never hurts to have extras on hand, or to pass on to other family members in need. Buying a gift that might be re-gifted is not necessarily a bad thing if it is something anybody could use.
– Boxed candy, goodies, snacks, or bottles of alcohol are popular white elephant gifts. One year there was a “set” gift which included a bottle of seasonal flavored rum along with a jar of flavored cashews. This gift was stolen many times, and was certainly very popular. This is something just about anybody can enjoy, but the alcohol might need to be avoided if there are going to be a considerable number of minors at the exchange.
– Gift cards. As impersonal as they seem, everybody loves getting gift cards because it allows them to purchase anything they want. For a white elephant party, try finding a way to spice up the gift card with an accompanying gift. There are a couple of fun ideas for making the participant work for the gift card. Check out http://www.thinkgeek.com for a puzzle box that could conceal a gift card or other small items, or http://www.normthompson.com for gift card puzzle box options. The best gift cards for the holidays are for super stores that include a large variety of choices, or gift cards to a popular restaurant.
– Variety gift bags or baskets with fruits, cookies, candies, potpourri or other similar items. These would work well for anybody, and will always be welcomed.
What NOT to get for your white elephant party:
– Anything that is extremely gender or age specific, or specific to a particular hobby or interest that not all people might share. Examples include sports equipment (basketball, tennis rackets, etc.), a men’s sweater, a set of children’s books or games, or a make-up case. A game might be a good option if it is a family game that can be enjoyed by all ages, but avoid Chutes and Ladders.
– Home-baked cookies, pies, fruit cakes, etc. While these are great to share with family and friends, it doesn’t really fit in with the idea of gift exchange. Bring your baked goods to share with the whole party and find a different gift for the exchange.
– Silly gifts, like a bottle of bubbles, a package of jacks or marbles, or gag gifts like whoopee cushions. Unless this is a theme for everybody at the party, it wouldn’t be fun for one person to end up with a package of gag gifts while everybody else gets something more enjoyable. However, creating a theme where everybody brings gag gifts might be a fun way to make the party less stressful and more fun.
These are just a few tips to keep in mind, and there are tons of options available out there for shopping for this type of party. The best thing to keep in mind is that your gift is not going to a specific type of person, so think of generalized gifts, and try to have fun with it!