The elephant in the room

Maggie Craig, Editor-In-Chief

Stealing, scheming and manipulation all wrapped up in a cute Christmas game? Count me in. White Elephant is all about utilizing your brains and using a bit of luck to optimize your chances of landing a great Christmas gift. This Christmas game brings the competition alongside the festive Christmas cheer, and it creates a fun and cutthroat atmosphere at the party. 

If you’re still reading this, and you still have absolutely no idea what a White Elephant Gift Exchange is, it’s a fun Christmas game where the objective is to leave the party with the best Christmas gift. 

Before the party commences, the host sets a price range and requires every player to bring a wrapped gift within that price range. When everyone arrives with their gifts, they place them in the center of the room where everyone can analyze the size, shape and material of the wrapping paper. At the start of the game, every player draws a number from a bucket to determine the order they will go in. That’s where the hint of luck kicks in. Your order determines what gifts you can land for this competition. Whoever is first gets the first selection of the presents. They can choose whatever wrapping paper or Christmas bag they find to be the most appealing, and once they decide on a gift, they have to open the gift for everyone to see.

Video used from Week99er via Youtube under Fair Use.

 Remember when I mentioned stealing? Well, this is where the real fun of the game begins. 

When it’s the next person’s turn to draw a gift, they have an alternative option: they can choose from the pile of wrapped gifts, or they can steal a previous player’s present. If your gift is stolen, you can either steal someone else’s gift or draw a new gift from the present pile. Gifts can only be stolen once per round, so you can’t steal something back until the next turn. Also, after three steals, the gift becomes “locked,” meaning that it cannot be stolen anymore.  

Once everyone goes, the first player is allowed to steal whatever gift isn’t locked or keep their gift. While there are many variations to this traditional Christmas activity, these are the most official rules of the game. 

White Elephant trumps Secret Santa in all aspects. Before the game begins, you don’t need to spend hours on end trying to find your person a personalized gift that you’re hoping they’ll like. Instead, you can simply purchase a universal gift that most people will enjoy. And if the person who ends up with your gift doesn’t enjoy it in White Elephant, you don’t have to hold onto the guilt of picking out a bad present. Because at the end of the day, you don’t get to decide who your gift goes to. I’ve had to sit through countless Secret Santa games where the players plastered on fake smiles, pretending they liked the gift they received, and White Elephant is the perfect solution for the awkward “thank you’s.” 

White Elephant is also work-friendly and a safer option than Secret Santa. The main issue people typically face when participating in Secret Santa is that someone always receives a person they don’t really know. The most awkward thing about Secret Santa is trying to find out a co-worker or a classmate’s likes and dislikes without giving it away. On top of that, this ultimately leads to other people giving away who they have, which takes away from the selling point of Secret Santa: the element of surprise. With White Elephant, it stirs healthy competition, and it’s a better way to get to know your colleagues through the strategies they use and the gifts they want the most in the game.  

While both of the Christmas games are fun and are a great way to ensure everyone receives a gift at the end of the party, White Elephant is ultimately a better activity since Christmas is better spent bonding with the ones you love rather than the gifts you receive.