Friday, December 16, 2005

Off-topic rant: White Elephant Gift Exchanges

With news out of Marinerland being a bit depressing as of late, I'll turn to other subjects. In this case, the "White Elephant" gift exchange. This is important to any of you who are organizing christmas parties for your neighbors, friends, or co-workers and are thinking about or are asked about doing one.

A white elephant gift is a gag gift. It's not supposed to be cute, or pretty or nice. It's supposed to be innane, ugly, useless or generally innappropriate in a funny way--and always nearly worthless. It's a great opportunity for re-gifting, and the possibilities are nearly endless. For example, your cousin just went through a knitting phase and has given you four hand-knitted toilet-paper-holders. You are going through a junk drawer and find a happy-meal toy from 1993. You still have a pair of MC Hammer pants. You were sent a recruiting DVD in the mail entitled "The National Guard Experience." All good stuff.

Lamer but still acceptable white elephant gifts would be things that aren't quite so funny, but are still worthless. For example, a cell-phone charger to a broken and obsolete model. A 2004 wall calendar. A partially used can of burguny shoe polish.

But let's be clear about what a white elephant gift is NOT. It's not a $10 set of body lotions. It's not an animatronic singing snowman from a Hallmark store (possible exception: you were given it last year). It's not a christmas tree ornament. It's not a fruitcake (possible exception: you were given it 5 years ago). These are kitchy junk, but their not funny or useless or worthless.

If you want to do a sincere gift exchange that means something, organize a secret Santa, where each person is assigned one other person to go find a personalized gift. If you want to make things easy and funny, do a real white elephant gift exchange. But please...don't have everybody bring gift-bags filled with kitchy junk.

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