Ok- This might be way more than you ever wanted to know- but hey, it's my blog- if you don't like it then start your own. :0)
This year we have for some odd reason been asked to bring the 'white elephant' gift to almost all of the parties we have been invited too. Now I have been involved in the 'white elephant' gift exchange in the past but to be honest I have never really given it much thought. Just figured I'd do what I was asked and bring my gift. But it seems to me that a lot of people (I including one) have no idea what a 'white elephant gift exchange' really is so I thought I'd do some digging and find out. So here goes: The history of the white elephant gift:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A white elephant is a supposedly valuable possession whose cost (particularly cost of upkeep) exceeds its usefulness, and it is therefore a liability. The term derives from the sacred white elephants kept by traditional Southeast Asian monarchs in Burma, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. To possess a white elephant was regarded (and still is regarded, in Thailand and Burma) as a sign that the monarch was ruling with justice and the kingdom was blessed with peace and prosperity. The tradition derives from tales in the scriptures which associate a white elephant with the birth of Buddha. Because the animals were considered sacred and laws protected them from labor, receiving a “gift” of a white elephant from a monarch was both a blessing and a curse: a blessing because of the animal’s sacred nature and a curse because the animal could be put to no practical use.
And next, the rules of the game:
All attendees of a white elephant party are expected to bring one wrapped gift. Traditionally, a white elephant present is something unusual, somewhat useless, or inconvenient. Trinkets, strange knick knacks, unidentifiable kitchen items, and the like are typical white elephants, and guests are asked to wrap them nicely and to leave no identifying markings on the presents. Part of the white elephant game is often a series of guesses as to who brought which present.
Usually, attendees draw numbers or cards to indicate player order. Strategic white elephant players try to end up somewhere in the middle of the game. The white elephant gifts are piled in a central location, and game play begins when one person opens the first gift. The contents are displayed to the room, and the next player’s turn begins.
The second player may either open a new present from the stack or steal the first player’s gift. If the second player takes the first player's white elephant, the first player must open a new present. A gift may only be stolen once a turn. After the second player’s turn is complete, the third player proceeds with the same options, and so forth until the game is finished.
Some white elephant parties impose a rule that a gift may only be stolen three times, requiring careful strategizing in the case of large multiplayer games. Sometimes, players band together to create advantageous trades amongst each other, although some white elephant exchanges forbid collaboration. In some cases, traditional gifts make their way back to white elephant parties year after year, and players can trace the history of lavish fur coats, hideous gravy boats, and other examples through the years.
After all this research I am still not positive what the attraction is- but I'm chalking it up to most of us needing to get rid of some of the stuff we bought and didn't need in the first place.