White Elephant Party Rules

With Christmas season fast approaching this year, everyone is getting excited about white elephant gifts exchanges that await. White elephant rules are simple but can be versatile. There are many variations and versions of this cheerful game.

Whether you have been tasked to organize and host the most amazing Christmas party or a guest wondering about the rules of the gift exchange, you have come to the right place! Here you will find updated rules for the 2018 season.


Basic White Elephant Rules
Without going into too much unwanted detail, let's look at the basic white elephant rules. These are the bare minimum required rules eof gift exchange to run everything smoothly.

1. Each Player Must Bring One White Elephant Gift
Everyone bring a gift to the party. There must be one gift for each player to take home so each guest chips in the pool of gifts by bringing one present to the party. There are many variations of rules that state how much you should spend or what types of white elephant gifts are acceptable, but if no such instructions are given out it's safe to buy something funny that costs under $20 or $25. It's also possible to get rid of unwanted gifts or items around the house.

2. Gifts Must Be Wrapped
Part of the gift exchange party excitement comes from the fact that you get to guess which gift is better before you choose one to open. There are many ways people love to prank each other during this process anywhere to shaping gift as something they are not to making gifts seem heavy by putting rocks in the box with the teddy bear. For all this to work, gifts must be wrapped well, even deceivingly shaped to create more intrigue and disappointment resulting laughter!

3. Players Must Open And Steal Gifts Orderly
There must be some order to the whole process. As a common white elephant rule, names or numbers are drawn to determine who goes first and who follows next. This way players can arrange themselves around the pile of gifts and start opening and swap gifts. When it's their turn, each player can open an unopened present or steal a gift from someone who had already opened one. This process continues until all gifts are opened or until certain amount of gift swapping has taken place. There are variations of the white elephant rules below where you can see several interesting ways to conclude the game.

4. No Immediate Re-Stealing
It is very likely that out of all the opened gifts, there will be a few that everyone wants to steal, so it's important to make sure that once a gift is stilen from one person, that person can not immediately steal it back, otherwise the stealing between two people could never end. This is one of the most important rules to follow regardless of what variation of the gift exchange you are playing.

5. Each Player Walks Away With Final Gift They Are Holding
When all gifts have been opened and all the stealing has finished, the gift that everyone ends up having is now theirs and they get to take it home. Sometimes, when the game is over, people like to offer eachother to swap and that's ok too but obviously optional.

Optional Rules And Variations
Apart from the main white elephant rules above, there are many interesting variations that you can choose to use. With these variations you can pick unique set of rules that would be best for your group and make the evening of stealing gifts even more exciting!

One of the fun rule variations for the gift exchange is to pre determine the theme of gifts to be brought to the party. A white elephant theme can be anything from toys, books, unwanted gifts being regifted, GAG gifts or even self made DIY projects.

Although it's common sense to not spend too much on a common Christmas gift, sometimes it may be a good idea to set a price limit and restrict gifts that are in a specific range. A good rule of thumb is something under $20.

Tired Elephant is one of the variations when if gift gets stolen certain amount of times, let's say 5 times, then this gift is out of the game and so is the person to be holding it last. If this rule is used, it can allow it to be used as a tactic for some to snatch a gift they like most.

"Timeout" is a common way to do white elephant exchange in large groups. The guests are not allowed to steal from each other until all the gifts are opened, and then the timer is set to count down for set amount of minutes where a continuous gifts stealing takes place. When the time is out the game is over.

"First In - Last Out" is a variation where whoever gets to open the first gifts also gets the option to do the final swap and take any gift they want. This is a good one and the luckiest player is the one that gets to open the first present.

How To Play White Elephant Game
To illustrate how the game is played, Kelly tells her story of how white elephant gift exchange takes place during her extended family Christmas party.
We have a big family with lots of uncles, aunts, cousins and all, so every Christmas, after each family has gone through their morning ritual of opening gifts, we all gather at my grand parents house. It's our favorite day of the year, because rarely we see everyone together like this unless there is another major event, say like wedding.
Now even though grandma insists that no one has to bring any food, each family usually brings something to eat to add to the holiday feast of the table we set for this occasion. Aunt Roies's casseroles are everyone's favorite and so are the cookies my cousins bake. In the end, there is so much food and drinks, that dishes have to compete with appearance and smell to make it to the main table. Forget about sitting down at the table, everyone grabs a plate, loads it up with all kinds of food and heads over to the basement where main action takes place.
Although the big deer antlers and a hunting rifle catches your eye when you go down to grandpa's basement, the true attention grabber is the big pile of gifts in the middle of the room between the pool and air hokey table. After everyone has come down, one of my younger cousins will write numbers on pieces of paper, as many as we have people playing and drop them in a baggy. Then we all take out a random piece. Once we all have our numbers, we start opening the gifts up in order.
Anyone can open a new gift or steal one from others. We keep doing it until all of the unwrapped gifts are opened. Then we set a timer and until the time has run out will keep on stealing from each other in order. You have a choice to open a gift or steal an opened one from someone. If someone gets their gift stolen, they can in turn steal from someone else or open another unopened gift.
Our family always competes to bring the funnies gifts to the family party and my uncles always try to out do each other and bring the most embarrassing stuff, but despite grandma warning them not to they still do it every year :)