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Have you been invited to a white elephant gift exchange? This tradition has ancient roots: Legend has it that the King of Siam (now Thailand) would give albino elephants to people in the royal court who had displeased him. The animals were rare and treasured, but so expensive to feed and house... that the “gift” would actually lead the courtiers into ruin.
Flash forward a few hundred years, and this phrase sums up a party activity that’s a blast in just about every phase: Shopping or combing through your home for a gift to bring, wrapping it up, watching the recipient open the gift, and then seeing the exchange that follows.
While the house rules can vary a little bit, the basic premise is the same. You want to bring a funny, inexpensive gift that will get a laugh—and maybe become the most coveted gift in the exchange.
This party game is a great conversation-starter for groups that don’t know each other well, offices where you’re trying to keep gifting politics to a minimum, or birthday parties where the celebrant doesn’t want to be the center of attention. To help you out, we've located great white elephant gifts to consider for your next party.
Socks are the classic white elephant gift. They’re sort of useful, fit just about any foot size, and come in an array of styles from silly to raunchy and snarky to nerdy. If you anticipate needing a few gag gifts or having a few white elephant parties in the future, consider stocking up on these silly chicken leg socks.
They’re just absurd enough to elicit a laugh, but not so specific that only one or two people will really “get” it. Plus, they come in three colors, so you can use them as a go-to gift while still varying your options.
Made of a mix of cotton, polyester, and spandex, don’t be surprised to find these hiding underneath someone’s snow boots come wintertime!
Sometimes the best white elephant gifts might actually be elephants! This inexpensive and petite gift will bring a smile to many faces—once they figure out what it is.
It’s actually a tea strainer made of silicone, a food-grade material that can even go into the microwave. Just fill it with loose tea by opening the lid at the base, pop it into a water-filled mug (the trunk will hold it in place with the rim of the mug), and microwave it to pour a perfect cup of tea.
This gift will appeal to tea-drinkers of all ages, whether your white elephant party is with a group of teachers, the garden club, or among friends.
Everyone needs a pizza cutter, right? And when it’s made to look like an ax, it’s just plain hilarious.
This white elephant gift will appeal equally to moms, dad, kids (with supervision, of course), and your single friends with its combination of lumberjack toughness and tongue-in-cheek practicality.
With a stainless steel rolling blade and wooden handle, it’s guaranteed to get laughs when the gift is opened and be a sought-after item in the gift exchange. Then, once it arrives at its new home, they’ll get a smile every time they use it—win-win!
If you’re having a white elephant gift exchange at your office, you want to make sure you find something that’s funny, but not too edgy. Something ironic or sarcastic that your friends would like might not do well with your conservative coworker!
Skip anything NSFW (that’s, Not Safe For Work) involving toilet humor, sex, politics, or snark. Instead, consider a quirky desk accessory.
That’s why this banana-shaped USB port fits the bill. It’s absurd, it’s inoffensive, and it’s actually useful! The USB plug works on any Mac or PC to turn one USB port into four USB ports. It's a great option for plugging in speakers, charging a phone, or connecting a keyboard or external hard drive. Plus, what’s not to love about the cheery yellow color?Continue to 5 of 8 below.
Whether your white elephant party is with the bowling team, biking crew, or just a few friends, it’s nice to have a gift that appeals to male senses. And while it’s tempting to go for the cliched guy stuff—sports, tech, or something a little off-color—it can be more fun to get a funny gift that speaks to their youthful days.
That’s why the Build-On Brick Mug is a great pick. There’s a good chance the guy who unwraps it played with Legos growing up, and still would, if it were appropriate. The plastic mug has a grid on the exterior that can be used as a base to build with bricks.
It’s the perfect intersection between a guy’s grownup life and childhood and sure to be a coveted item.
You may have gathered to talk about books, but inevitably the conversation turns to life—that balance of family, work, keeping up with your home, and all that comes with it. So perhaps a gift that ironically puts the subject of cleaning "to bed" is a good fit?
This silly sponge holder is shaped like a bed frame, complete with built-in pillows. It sits on your countertop and provides a comfortable, restful place for your sponge in between cleaning dishes and wiping up messes. After all, couldn’t your sponge use a break?
It comes with its own sponge, but you can trade it out and use your own once it gets too dirty. Just don’t be surprised if a kid nabs it to use for pretend play on their own!
Wine is always appreciated at a dinner party—so why not add it to the gift exchange? Since the point it to be silly, and not traditional, consider dressing up that bottle of two-buck-chuck with its own pair of... overalls. That wine wouldn’t want to be overdressed for your soiree!
The Accoutrements Vinderalls is a fun way to make even a cheap bottle of wine feel like a treat. It can also make a more expensive one seem less splurge-y.
These wine overalls are made of denim and fit most 750 mL bottles of wine. The front pocket is a real pocket and sized just right for a note or gift card. This is an easy gift to stock up on and keep on hand for a last-minute laugh since you can pop in any bottle of wine or similarly-sized non-alcoholic beverage and head to the party.
If you’re looking for a gift that an entire family can appreciate, try finding a bigger (but still inexpensive) item that feels like a substantial gift. And it’s hard to go wrong with sweets!
This donut cookie jar probably isn’t something mom or dad would buy for the countertop, but it just might become a family favorite that lives in the kitchen for decades. It’s silly enough to delight youngsters and useful enough that parents will find it funny, too.
At about 6.5 by 9 inches, the big wrapped box is bound to be an early pick in the gift exchange.