What do you think a White Elephant gift exchange is?

I have been to quite a few white elephant gift exchanges over the years and they seem to break down into two categories:

  1. Everyone brings a joke gift(sometimes used junk, etc.) and people play the exchange/steal game with their gifts. In the end, you end up with something funny or not worth much, but usually a good laugh.

  2. Everyone brings an actual gift of value and plays the same game. Not joke gifts, but actual real gifts of some level of cash value.

I bet some of you have had the following experience. You show up with a joke gift and almost everyone else does, but a few people(or just one) brings something WAY too nice and it becomes the hot item of the night.

One guy I know brought a six-pack of nice beer with scratchoff cards inside each beer slot along with the beers. I actually got this item, while most people got crap.

Tomorrow night, I am invited to a white elephant gift exchange with a cash value of $10. Uh…wait. Are they expecting a joke gift worth $10 or a real one?

OK, so vote in the poll and let me know what you think a White Elephant exchange is.

It is regifting. Giving gift you have gotten before but didnt like. Usually nice things you dont want or cant use, like a third toaster.

If you don’t have any of those, you can buy something of course.

Mind you, something kinda funny goes well. When clearing out a locker I found a new, unused solid oak toilet seat. Now the supposed limit was $25, but that seat was worth like twice that.

Of course, it got guffaws and chuckles, but was quickly snapped up in a forced trade and made “safe” by a guy who really wanted a snazzy new seat.

A six pack of nice beer with a scratcher is a good one.

Now, you can say it’s for only joke gifts, but that wears out quickly.

For what it’s worth, Wikipedia votes for the first answer, although I’m not convinced they’re the ultimate authority. (For one thing, I thought that a “white elephant gift exchange” didn’t necessarily have to include the steal/swap element.)

I don’t disagree with anything DrDeth said. When I think of a white elephant gift exchange, I think of giving something you already have lying around, that you don’t particularly want but that someone else would find useful or amusing or interesting.

The ones we’ve had at work in the past usually have a price limit of $25, but it’s known that it’s a crapshoot. You might get a joke gift, or you might get something halfway decent. Oddly enough sometimes a gag gift becomes the hot item that everybody wants.

I have actually never been to one of these things. But I always thought it was a gag gift thing.

To me, the connotation of “white elephant” is something that’s in basically new condition but unwanted by the donor for any of several reasons. It may be a book someone bought for you that you already owned a copy of, or a Kenny G CD someone got you because he knew you “like jazz” but didn’t realize your taste runs more toward John Coltrane, or a perfectly nice Norman Rockwell calendar that you don’t need because you already have a calendar on every wall where one may come in handy.

Something you received as a joke gift, but that someone else might reasonably like, can be appropriate as long as you keep the people at the swap in mind (for example, no “nudie” playing cards unless you’re reasonably sure nobody at the gathering will be offended). However, a white elephant should be something you already have around, as opposed to something you buy just for the exchange.

The version in my head has decent (but cheap) gifts and one joke gift. That last one is the white elephant, and the thing you’re trying not to get.

My office does a white elephant and it’s usually a mixture of nice gifts, joke gifts, and whatever they had laying around the car that day because they forgot about the office party.

The one thing I cannot stress enough, however, is the importance of clearly articulating the rules around “steals” at the outset. It’s amazing how much bad blood can linger over proper ownership of a set of candlesticks in the absence of clearly defined rules.