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White Elephant Wednesday

Christmas Tree

About White Elephant Wednesday

When is White Elephant Day? This holiday is observed on the second Wednesday in December

Take a break from all of your holiday shopping and have some fun. One of the fun things to do during the season is have a holiday party. Join in on the holiday cheer of Christmas parties. Today is White Elephant Day. It’s one of the most enjoyable holidays of this joyous season. On this holiday, small groups get together for a holiday party and exchange gifts while playing the White Elephant game. These gifts are items of some value (not junk) that you no longer want but may be of some value to another person. As you decide what gift you want to contribute to the game, look for things that might evoke laughter when opened. It is also important that all partygoers know how to play the white elephant game before they decide what gift to bring.

Importantly, if your Christmas or Hannukah party is not on White Elephant Wednesday, you should still play the white elephant game at your party. It’s a laugh and a half to play.

This holiday is similar to, but different than National Regifting Day. On National Regifting Day, new, unused items are wrapped and regifted. And, it’s not associated with a party or a game.

Other names for white elephant gifting: Dirty Santa, Thieves’ Christmas, and Yankee Swap.

Did You Know? In Southeast Asia, a rare albino elephant is sacred and a sign of peace and prosperity.

The Roots of White Elephant Day

People have been passing off unwanted items as gifts for a couple hundred years. The tradition of giving white elephant gifts goes back to 1828! Then, in 1907, a well-to-do society woman in Columbus, Ohio held a White Elephant party, and a new tradition took off. Youth, especially teens, and adults like this often-hilarious gift exchange. We do find that young children have trouble understanding the concept of the game. 

 You can exchange gifts in a group setting, or just between two people. We find it’s the most fun with small groups. Today, these parties are held all over the world. White Elephant party games are often a part of Christmas and Hannukah parties. They are held at office and work parties, scout meetings, and youth group meetings, to name a few. While most often this game is played during the holidays, you can play it with any group at any time of the year. Try playing it at a birthday party.

Elephant Dancing

How to Celebrate White Elephant Day

Without a doubt, you and your friends are going to have a lot of fun celebrating this holiday. Participating is easy. Here’s how:

  • Invite family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers to a party. The location of the party is irrelevant.
  • Tell them in advance to bring a white elephant gift. If they are unfamiliar with what it is, explain it to them. 
  • Play the game sometime during the party. 
  • Have fun!
Wrapping Presents, National Regifting Day, White Elephant Wednesday

How to Play the White Elephant Game

This game has simple, basic rules. Here’s how to play the White Elephant game. Feel free to alter the rules as you see fit.  

  • Each partygoer brings a wrapped gift.
  • The gifts can be virtually anything, new or old. However, it should be something that can be perceived to have value to someone. An ugly lamp or sweater is perfect. But, don’t wrap up something useless like dirty socks with holes in them, or a broken platter. Something with a little wear and tear is okay.
  • Place the gifts in a pile and put chairs in a circle around them.
  • Explain the rules clearly before the game begins.
  • Use a deck of cards to determine who picks a gift first.
  • The first player picks a gift from the pile and opens it.
  • The next player can select an unopened gift from the pile or steal an already opened gift. 
  • A player can only have one gift stolen. Note: Many people vary this rule.
  • The game ends when everyone has a gift.

Today's Chuckle

“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.” – – Groucho Marx

History and Origin of White Elephant Day

Bob Matthews from Rochester, NY created White Elephant Wednesday in 2023. The objective of this holiday is to enjoy a little holiday cheer by giving and receiving laugh-inducing gifts. Trading these gifts is best enjoyed by playing the game in a small group setting. Matthews has played this game many times and says it’s “always a blast”.

This game is most often played at holiday parties. So, the date selected is early in the time period where these parties are held. This is an annual event.

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More About Today

Holiday Insights, where every day in December is a holiday, a bizarre or wacky day, an observance, or a special event. Join us in the daily calendar fun each and every day of the year.

Did You Know? There are literally thousands of daily holidays, special events, and observances, more than one for every day of the year. and many of these holidays are new. People and organizations are creating new holidays regularly. December holidays are no exception. Consequently., at Holiday Insights, we take great efforts to thoroughly research and document the details of each one, as completely and accurately as possible.

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