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White Elephant in the Room


Whether it be with coworkers, friends, or family, ‘tis the season for holiday parties. One tradition that often goes hand in hand with these parties is the white elephant gift exchange. Often times, white elephant gifts are unconventional, even ridiculous.

“It’s more of a gag gift,” said business major Michael Skattebo. “You’re just trying to find the most bizarre and crazy things.”

According to journalism major Zoe Jennings, “The ideal white elephant gift is completely random and unexpected.”

Journalism major Willis Scott received one of these unexpected gifts in a white elephant exchange. “The best I’ve ever gotten was a leopard print vest,” Scott said. “I received that right after Macklemore’s ‘Thrift Shop’ was really popular. After the gift exchange I went to Chick-fil-A and the girl behind the counter said I looked like Macklemore.”

There are several stores that are gold mines for finding quirky gifts. “I would recommend that someone looking for a white elephant gift should go to a thrift store,” Jennings said. “You never know what you’ll find there.”

Other options include the “As Seen on TV” section of Walmart or Walgreens. Here you can find products like “Pajama Jeans,” “Shake Weights,” and nose hair trimmers. These infomercial inventions make the perfect gag gifts.

“The ideal white elephant gift is completely random and unexpected.” — Zoe Jennings, CSU journalism major

However, a white elephant is not always synonymous with gag gifts. The serious presents are often the ones that all the party-goers want to steal during the game.

Engineering major Morgan Buchanan said, “It adds competition to the game because everyone is vying for the good gift.”

When thinking of ideas for serious gifts, Buchanan applies the Golden Rule. “Look for something that you would like to receive,” he said.

Some popular serious gifts might include CDs, DVDs, and gift cards. Opting for a more serious present ensures that the recipient will actually enjoy and use it when the game is over.

“It’s kind of cool because everyone wants your gift, it makes you feel very good,” Buchanan said.

Whether serious or silly, the white elephant gift exchange is a tradition that lives on at holiday parties. So pass, steal, trade, and hope that the gift you end up with is as good as the one you brought.

Silly Gift Ideas:

  • Tacky ties, ugly sweaters, and crazy socks. An outrageous article of clothing is a gift the recipient can wear to their next holiday party.
  • Barnes & Noble offers an array of ludicrous literature. Chuck Norris jokes, “How to Poo at Work,” or “Cows Doing Yoga” are all great options.
  • Age-inappropriate gifts are always appropriate. Think older and buy denture cream, or younger, and buy the latest Barbie doll or Transformer.
  • You can never go wrong with technology accessories. The cheeseburger phone from “Juno” is the perfect example.

On a serious note:

  • A holiday scented candle is a gift exchange classic. Check out Bath & Body Works or Yankee Candle for the season’s best scents.
  • A soft winter scarf and mittens will keep anyone warm and toasty. Target has a great selection of winter accessories.
  • A movie bucket complete with a DVD, popcorn, and candy is a gift everyone will want to steal.
  • Baked goods are a go-to gift. Spend the afternoon baking a tin of holiday cookies for the tastiest gift of the party.
  • If party-goers are over 21, a nice bottle of wine in a holiday sleeve makes the perfect gift. Otherwise, a gourmet hot chocolate set with a festive mug is the way to go.
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    Candice BrenerDec 18, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    This year the office rules was to get useful, functional gifts for the exchange. The limit was $50. I got a Lumiy Lightline LED desk lamp and I was the hit of the party. People were bringing in like leather notebooks and fancy keychains so the Lumiy lamp really stood out. My boss won it so big, win for me. =)