History of the White elephant gift exchange

Posted by PartyWeDo on Tuesday, March 22, 2011

White elephant gift swap history and future

white elephant gift swapIf you are a regular visitor to our site, you know the real story of white elephant gifts begins with the Asian kings of Burma and Siam. White elephants were extremely important and valuable creatures in these Asian countries, so receiving a white elephant from the king would be a huge honor and make the receiver the envy of all the land.

Somehow the tradition of valuable gift sharing morphed into a gift exchange game and the result is the now the traditional white elephant gift exchange.

Here is how the game got started:

The white elephant gift exchange or Yankee swap started with the need to increase social engagement at group parties; particularly office gifting events, where additional activities could act as conversation starters. Eventually people learned the high level of fun and banter that were created with the gift swapping game, so it spread to other groups.

In most areas of the US it is called a white elephant gift exchange, but in the Northeastern US it is more commonly called a Yankee swap. Ether way it is a unique gift giving system that continues to be popular.

Offering gifts is an expression of kindness or love among close-knit groups, so gift giving has always been an important part of our social support structure. The issue for businesses and other groups is that hosting a gift exchange party includes the requirement that items be purchased. Many groups had used a secret Santa exchange format and found that there where issues that arose when spending was ether extravagant or cheap.

In an effort to bring gift giving budgets into line and to offer a fun activity during the party, the gift swap game was developed. White elephant exchange hosts select a pricing range and invitees are expected to purchase gifts within that budget.

Another unique characteristic of the rules in a white elephant party is the idea that anyone could go home with any gift. The swap mixed up the gift giving and took the pressure off from individual gift purchasers to buy for a specific person, like they did in the secret Santa format. When it didn’t matter who would eventually get the gift it became easier to shop for a gift that many people might find valuable.

That’s how white elephant gift exchange parties came to be so popular, by cutting down on expenses, reducing shopping stress and adding great fun to any group event.

The white elephant gift exchange party spread, and today it’s a much-loved way of having a good time with family and friends during the holiday season. Everyone brings one gift and leaves with one gift, making it fair, no matter how many unexpected guests show up.

The format of White Elephant parties has changed and evolved over the years, but at its core it has always remained an entertaining way to spend time with loved ones, share gifts, save money, and above all have fun.

The internet has now allowed us the opportunity to move this traditional gift swapping activity onto the web and invite everyone to the party, no matter the distance. AlbinoPhant is the online version of the white elephant gift exchange, with all the same features you have come to expect from the game you play at regular gift swapping events.

The white elephant gift exchange has a long history of success and is continuing to evolve with the times….. You are going to love this party!


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3 Responses to “History of the White elephant gift exchangeComment RSS feed

  • Georgia McGuire
    November 5th, 2014 10:33 am

    How do I purchase the white elephant delux cards?

  • Justaguy
    November 21st, 2018 4:21 pm

    The history above is incomplete. A gift of a white elephant back in the day was not a gift one would want to receive. Because it was a gift, the recipient would have to keep it so as not to offend the gift giver, and the new owner now has to feed and care for the animal, not an inexpensive undertaking. A white elephant gift, at least in the Midwest, is a gift of some used item that may have only been used once or twice and sat on a shelf taking up space, thus passing on the only semi used item to take up the space in the new owners basement.

    The traditional white elephant gift exchange involves a group of recipients who bring a wrapped gift that is placed on a table. The gift should be of something no longer used by the original owner, think kitchen appliances that are collecting dust for example. All the participants then draw numbers out of a hat. The first person opens the package of their choice. The second, third fourth person etc, then has a choice to make, either open a new unopened package from the table, or exchange it for any previously opened gift. Once the last gift is opened, it is the party host that has the option of offering the first person to exchange his/her gift for any of the already opened gift.

  • Justaguy
    November 21st, 2018 4:27 pm

    Forgot to add that having a white elephant exchange is often done so as to ensure that everyone has something to take home after the party, no one leaves empty handed.

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