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The Key To The White Elephant

Christmas is definitely here. Lights are a-twinkle around town. The advent candles are burning, and children everywhere are a part of numerous Christmas musicals.

Christmas also brings the proverbial White Elephant Gift Exchange. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this now common Christmas tradition, let me give you an explanation and some tips for walking away with the best gift.

The White Elephant Gift Exchange is a game likely dreamed up by genius guys, somewhere, who wanted an excuse for not knowing how to shop for their friends, girlfriends, wives and coworkers. Each person brings an unmarked gift, and then numbers are drawn to allow each person a turn to pick a present from the pile. The ingenious creators of the game also made a unique “out” to ensure they didn’t walk away with a disappointing gift. After a gift has been unwrapped, the party goers who have not chosen their gift have the opportunity to steal one of the unwrapped gifts, rather than selecting from the pile of the unknown.

Another unique rule in the game allows the first person to go again at the end of the game, so they can choose from all the unwrapped gifts.

So now that you understand the basic concept of the game, let me give you some pointers I have learned during years and years of White Elephant Exchanges.

The larger and the heavier the gift, the more likely it will be a bum gift. At the party I attended last week, the gift I brought was the largest gift of the group, as well as the heaviest. Inside were 20-30 copies of old Belton Journal newspapers and one Book of Mormon. While this might actually be a treasured gift in some circles, it was not a chart topper among my Baptist group of friends.

Never judge a gift by its cover. While that copy of classic literature might be a decent gift, don’t be surprised if someone is too eager to steal the gift from you. My sister is notorious for hiding gift cards to her favorite stores or money inside the gifts she brings.

Often the plainly wrapped gifts are the best. Many people will do their best to disguise a cheap gift with fancy wrapping, bows, glitter or whatever they can. Remember that people who spend a lot of money on wrapping don’t have much left over for the gift, and those who spend a lot of money on the gift don’t normally have as much to spend on wrapping.

Watch what my cousin Brian brings and stay away from it. My cousin Brian has been known to bring lady’s unmentionables or other gifts you just want to stay away from. So, be careful to avoid his gifts.

The best way to get something you like—is to bring it. When shopping for the perfect gift, think about what you want, and then buy it. Wrap it in the fanciest wrapping you can find (see rule #3) and grab it when your turn comes. Be careful though, if your number comes up early in the game, you have a good chance of losing it. So I like to buy things that no one else in my family or group of friends would like.

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This is the most important rule of all—there are no rules. No matter how much you scheme and plan, there is a 98.2 percent chance you will walk away with a bum gift. This past week I walked away with a flowery kitchen towel and oven mitt. And for that simple reason, I take no responsibility in the odd gift you leave the party with.

Finally, remember, the bum gift you received at this party will be the perfect gift—wrapped in a large, heavy package—at your next White Elephant Gift Exchange.

[Jonathan Blundell is the editor of The Belton Journal in lovely Belton, Texas. In his free time, he is working to build a multi-media company geared toward serving and helping the Church reach the unreached in new, relevant and unique ways.]

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