The Epicness of White Elephant

Nothing says happy holidays quite like a Ziploc bag of ketchup packets.

This past week my advisory family celebrated the end of 2017 with a little white elephant gift exchange. For those of you who are not familiar with this concept there is some history behind it, but basically you wrap up something from your home and bring it in as surprise gift for somebody else. Now sometimes, the goal is to find something nice from your home that you simply don’t need or want anymore. The concept of “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” kind of thing. For my students, I really wanted to challenge them to find something simply ridiculous. Nothing of actual value was allowed. (Two years ago I had one kid totally miss the concept and went out and got a $5 gift card to Family Video- thats a game wrecker) Students must wrap the gifts, but when I saw “wrap” I’m using that term very loosely. Wrap it in Kleenex or newspaper, that just fine. A gift bag is fine too, but only if the gift page is actually a Wal-Mart bag.

Allow me to give you a visual of what the present table looks like on white elephant day:

Anticipation is killing the kids at this point. They can’t fight back the giggles. Let’s get serious, I can’t fight back the giggles either. The ridiculousness of this whole event is just so fun. Everybody brings in a gift and everybody walks away with one. We draw numbers for who gets to pick from the party table first. This year we played “dirty elephant.” Basically that means we played dirty. If you pulled #1, you got first pick. You unwrapped your gift in front of the whole family, everybody got hard laugh because of how silly the item was, and then you had to make sure you weren’t falling in love with the new gift. You see, if you draw #2 you either get to pick from the table of goodies OR take the item from #1. So really you hope you pick the highest number in the hat so you get dibs on any item!

What would you do? Pick from the already opened selections or go for the gamble and pick an unopened item from the table? Choices, Choices….

Here are my top 3 favorite items from this year’s Gift Exchange:

1.) The Feather Duster & Shower Cap Combo Pack- domestic, practical gifts are the best right. It is every 13 year old’s dream come true to get items that are intended for adults. But look at that feather duster, I mean come on, that is a thing of beauty!

2.) The Used Gift Card- Upon opening it, this kid was PUMPED to get a Dairy Queen card. Watch out cookie dough Blizzard, here I come, he thought. I was confused. The student who wrapped that up clearly didn’t get the concept of the activity. Or maybe they did… Turns out the card has 14 CENTS on it! YES! Brilliant!

3.) Condiments on the Go- Every been in crisis mode and need a packet of Ketchup quickly? We’ve all been there, right? This innovative gift actually came from me. I had a zip-lock bag and I found some random ketchup at the bottom of a cabinet. And BOOM! My white elephant gift was created.


The amount of laughter and camaraderie that spills from my classroom during this event is truly priceless. Of course, one of the cornerstones of playing this game is to just enjoy some fun family time, but there is deeper meaning. The point I hope to prove to kids is that gifts come in all shapes and sizes. Gifts can cost tons of money and be perfectly wrapped, or gifts can be free and wrapped up with love and joy. It’s the ones that cost the least that usually make the greatest impact.

Happy Holidays, everybody!

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