In just a few short weeks, people will gather in boardrooms and break rooms across the country for one of the most anticipated (and most dreaded) events of the holiday season: the company gift exchange. Maybe your team doesn’t do this, or maybe you’ve gone the sensible route and all agreed to get each other Starbucks gift cards.
But if your place of employment routinely engages in what one of my favorite co-workers likes to refer to as “mandatory fun,” you probably need an affordable, humorous, and unique (and possibly uniquely terrible) gift to bring to the swap. We’re here to help.
White Elephant Gift Swap Rules
First of all, what kind of mandatory holiday fun is your group planning? While the official White Elephant Rules site really spells things out, here’s the gist:
All participants bring a wrapped gift, usually in a predetermined price range. The gifts are placed in a pile/central location, and everyone draws a number. The person who drew No. 1 selects a present to unwrap. No. 2 can either unwrap a different gift or “steal” the first person’s selection. And so on down the line. Anyone whose gift was stolen gets the chance to steal a gift, until everyone has a present. See how it plays out in The Office’s high-stakes Yankee Swap.
So what exactly differentiates the various types of swaps? Most of it is regional. If you live in the northeast, you’ll probably do a White Elephant or Yankee Swap (understandably), while Dirty Santa is more popular in the south.
What you call your swap also helps define the type of present you’re expected to bring. White Elephant exchanges usually focus on absurd and/or useless gag gifts, but some groups aim for bizarre but still enjoyable presents (with a reasonable price limit, of course). The name of the exchange matters less than having a good time, so set some basic ground rules with your group…and don’t forget your gift!
The best White Elephant gifts are one of three types:
- Things people want because they're funny
- Things people want because they're desirable
- Things people don't want because they're funny
We’ve rounded up 30 unconventional (yet functional and affordable) options for the people you spend at least 40 hours a week with.
What’s the best (or worst) gift exchange gift you’ve ever been stuck with? Let us know in the comments!
Need more gift ideas for friends and family?