The Gift Exchange So Fun It Couldn’t Possibly Be Evil… Right?

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If you’ve never been to a White Elephant gift exchange, this may be your year! If you don’t know what we’re talking about, perhaps you’ve heard it called something else, like “Yankee Swap,” “Thieving Elves,” “Machiavellian Christmas,” or one of the other dozen names for it.

If you’ve never been to one, definitely consider hosting your own (or forcing your family to drastically alter their decades-long traditions) — they’re ridiculously fun, and the rules are simple: Come with the most useless gift, leave with the most useful.

Celadon ceramic, literal white elephants that speak, see, and hear no evil.

Celadon ceramic, literal white elephants that speak, see, and hear no evil (respectively).

Okay, so it’s a bit more complicated than that. But that’s the gist.

Basically, everyone takes turns either unwrapping a present, or stealing a previously unwrapped gift from someone else. Guests can draw numbers from a hat to decide a fair order of play, and the game typically ends when the first person has the chance to steal or open a new gift.

It’s a lot harder to explain than it is to play, and there a ton of variations. If you’re confused at all (and you should be), read up on the “official” White Elephant rules here, and check out this video of the 2012 U.S. national women’s soccer team enjoying their own thievery-based gift exchange:

Got it? Okay. Time to get to the presents.

The best type of gift to bring is something from your home that you just can’t get rid of. Having your friends use (or, throw away) your inconsequential knick-knacks is probably the best part of White Elephant exchanges.

However, not everyone has useless junk around the house (that’s what we hear, at least). Thankfully (for you, for us, for women who need mammograms) we searched our inventory for the weirdest gifts you can give — each item comes with a 1% donation toward a mammogram, and a variable amount of laughter (which, besides prevention, is the best medicine) for whoever gets to open these gems.

Let’s start with the gold:

Ultralite™ Leopard Plush Hooded Onesie

It’s either the best White Elephant gift of all time, or just the best gift in general — it really depends on who gets it.


Then the things with disproportionate cats on them:

A Single Shirt Too Small for a Cat

Cat faces don't get much larger than this.

Until they come out with a larger t-shirt size, this Larger Than Life Persian Cat T-Shirt will have to do.

This is one of the least expensive t-shirts offered in our store, yet it is clearly the most coveted.

A Dozen Cats Too Large for a Mug

These kitties are so cozy on this grande ceramic mug, because they need to be due to lack of space.

These kitties are so cozy on this grande ceramic mug, because they need to be due to lack of space.

This mug is a surefire way to show the world you are a friend of cats.


And our all-time favorite:

The Happy Gnome

“Each year, happy gnome comes around. He looks at your stuff, and he’s happy with you. Happy gnome is everyone’s friend.” —Happy Gnome, By Anonymous

The Happy Gnome in a Christmas tree.

The Happy Gnome, while not an ornament, enjoys spending time in coniferous trees.

Check out the Breast Cancer Site Store for more potential White Elephant gifts that fight cancer! Let us know in the comments when you find something good.

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Matthew M. Sullivan holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Grand Valley State University, with emphases in fiction and nonfiction. He lives smack-dab between some railroad tracks and Grand Rapids Michigan's third-busiest road, and spends his time studying film and literary fiction.