July 9, 2008

White Elephants, Luv'm or Leav'm

White elephants are things with unusual, often hidden values. You can either luv’m, or you can leav’m.

At least that’s my definition.

If an item has a generally recognized value, it’s probably not a white elephant. A Rolex watch is not a white elephant. At least not yet, it isn’t. Not as long as people generally wear and respect Rolex watches. I don’t own one.  I’m hoping a Rolex watch will become a white elephant one day so that someone might give me one, at a white elephant party. Assuming no one then steals it from me.

Oh, did I forget to tell you? White elephants are usually traded at white elephant parties, or during a white elephant trading session during a party organized for some other primary purpose. Or you might find a white elephant at a white elephant sale.  Perhaps even at a flea market.  It's possible.

Now here is a good example of a white elephant, I think:

I found this example of a white elephant at TinyPineapple, a website of a person I do not know. That’s the risk of making your website or blog accessible to Google searches. People will find you.
Do you see the unusual, sometimes hidden value of the Cat and the Mouse Wall-Mounted Découpage Clock? If you don’t, click here and read TinyPineapple's artful description of the “beauty” he walked away with at his family’s last white elephant party.
There are rules for hosting a white elephant party. After all, when is the last time you heard of any human activity that didn’t have some rules? Oh, well.  Here is the basic list  (paraphrasing):

1)  Every participant brings a wrapped white elephant
2)  Participants pick a number from a hat to determine the order in which they take their turn
3)  Each person, in turn, picks a wrapped gift, or an unwrapped gift already picked by another participant (in which case the person whose white elephant was "stolen" gets to pick again)
I didn't make up these rules.  They seem to have evolved over time.
Click here to read the full rules, to find tips for making your white elephant party a success and to examine the picture of the white elephant in more detail. 
The author, Amy Francisco, lives in Texas and says she is a "sister of five Brady-Bunch-like siblings, and the daughter of a Web-surfing retired mother."  She's had over 352,000 views of her article on white elephants since November 2006.

That’s about it. Oh, I almost forgot. I don’t want to ever receive anything in the shape of an onion head, unless it's made of a high quality plastic. But I do see the hidden value in it.


  1. Jesus wouldn't wear a rolex watch, I don't think.

  2. Up here, we call this "Yankee Swap". I heard some other name when I lived in Montana -- some ethnicity -- but I don't actually recall which.

    We tend to add this rule: if some one "steals" your open gift, you may either steal another OR open a new one. BUT you may not take a gift you have already had. (You can bargain and deal and play diplomacy-tricks, if you can get away with it.)

    We also say that the person with #1 at the end may (but does not heave to) perform The Final Swap if he/she has never had a gift stolen from him, swapping his gift for either an unopened package OR for an open item.


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