What is a "White Elephant Gift Exchange?"
White Elephant Gift Exchange specifications are set by the
group or family involved in the gift exchange. White Elephant
Gift rules tend to differ regionally. Sometimes white elephant
gift exchanges involve generic gifts suitable for any age
with a pre-determined price range. Other times, creativity
or "weird-factor" is the only pre-requisite!
the goal is to find an item that you already own but have
no use for, and to pass that "white elephant" onto
somebody else via the gift exchange. (If you don't happen
to own anything completely useless that you'd like to "re-gift,"
Aspencountry.com can certainly help you out!)
the recipient is pre-determined, but other times the gift
recipient is drawn from a hat. In any case, the main objective
of a White Elephant Gift Exchange is for everyone to have
are the rules for a White Elephant Gifts Exchange?
Elephant Gift Exchanges are more about entertainment, laughing,
joking, and having a good time, than they are about receiving
a great gift. It's not about money; it's about having fun!
Elephant Gift Exchanges are sometimes known as Dirty Santa,
Thieving Secret Santa, or Yankee Swap. There are variations
with each, but these are the basic rules to the gift swapping
Suggest a dollar amount for the gifts exchanged. These days
$20-$25 is typical, but $10 is doable. You can even set the
dollar amount at $0 and require that the gift be some useless
item the participant already owns.
Suggest a theme for the White Elephant Gifts such as: "recycled
or used," "your neck of the woods," "retro,"
"totally tacky," "unforgettable," "humorous
gag gift," "completely useless," "animal,"
"mineral," or "smaller than a bread box,"
or "anything goes."
the Game Begin!
Select a location at your party where guests can secretly
place gifts to keep the White Elephant Gift Exchange anonymous.
White Elephant Gift Exchange participants pick a number out
of a hat to determine the order of gift pickers.
The lucky person with #1 chooses first, unwraps the gift,
and shows it to everybody else. The person with #2 can choose
to open a new gift, or to steal the first opened gift. If
he doesn't steal the first gift, the game moves onto #3. When
a gift is stolen, the person who lost his gift chooses another
and opens it. The order resumes. When the last gift has been
opened, the game is over.
Nobody can leave until the game is over! If somebody has to
go, they have to leave their gift behind and let somebody
else play in their behalf. No cheating is allowed!
Variations to the rules:
Most Common Variation: After the last participant's turn,
person #1 has the option to keep their current gift and end
the game, or swap gifts with anybody else.
Very common: A limit to the number of times any gift can be
stolen is sometimes set, usually 3 times. If the same couple
of gifts keep getting stolen over and over and over again,
your White Elephant Gift Exchange may never be over! The larger
the group exchanging White Elephant Gifts, the longer the
In Thieving Secret Santa, gifts are not unwrapped until the
game is over. Players can shake, smell, or rattle the gift,
but can't unwrap and open. Participants still have the option
to keep their gift or steal somebody else's, but the gifts
are a secret until the very end when they're all opened.
White Elephant Gifts are usually anonymous, but it's also
a fun variation to require that gifts represent the giver
so that everybody can try to guess and point fingers at the
Another way to speed up an eternal White Elephant Gift Exchange:
A gift that was just stolen in the last turn cannot be stolen
by the next player, but can be stolen by the following players.
A gift can only be stolen one time during a turn, but it can
be stolen back by the same participant on a later turn.
In Yankee Swap, the person who brings the "best"
gift, the gift most often stolen, is rewarded at the end of
the exchange. The person who brought the best gift has the
last option to swap.
After the game is over, anybody who agrees can swap gifts
with anybody else who agrees. But, no theft is allowed!
Christmas and Happy New Year from Aspen Country!