Gift Giving Custom

Bonacorsi Family White Elephant Gifts

I asked my mother Cathy Bozzo about this particular family practice because we always perform it with her side of the family and not my dads. The tradition known as “gag gifts” to my family is also known as “white elephant gifts” to many other people. We always perform this tradition Christmas Eve or the night of Christmas day depending on who we are with. Every one in the family brings a gag gift that is not delivered to any one in particular, but rather it directed at certain genres. For example, if it is something extremely perverse like the extra large pair of leopard print underwear that my uncle brought one year it would be marked “Adult.” However we also have a lot of small children under the age of 14 so many of the gifts are tame but still amusing such as the robotic hamster dressed up as a ninja that sung “Kung Foo Fighting.” The way that my family in particular runs the event is there tags with a number on it for each person there. The tags are places in a hat and the eldest person in the room, usually Grandpa chooses his number first, after that everyone else pulls a number to set the order of the picking. When it is your turn you carefully peruse the gifts which are wrapped up, but my mom noticed, and I agree, that usually you see one gift that seems to be destined for you. And often many people bring a certain gift with the hopes that one particular person will choose it. My family also has a couple of special rules that allow for the tradition to become rather competitive. After a gift is chosen by someone it is not necessarily off the market. Each gift may be stolen by another person when it is that person’s turn. If a gift is stolen from you, you go back to the pile and choose another gift. Usually there are often a few gifts that are very popular and are stolen quite often. Therefore we established a rule stating that gift may only be stolen twice, after that it is officially off the market. Therefore it is at your advantage to be near the end of the rotation so that you may see all of the gifts that are already in circulation and you have the opportunity to steal them if they catch your attention. By having this rule the tradition becomes a very competitive game and further adds to the fun of the tradition.

My mom recalled doing this even as a child with all of her cousins and aunts and uncles. According to my mom their family was pretty thrifty so often times the gifts were homemade or from other sources, for example the pair of dentures my her dad (my grandpa) used as a gag gift. The point of the gag gifts my mom emphasized is celebrate the love of family. Gathering together with all her family for this when she was younger was one of her favorite holiday traditions. She loves the fact that tradition has continued now that she has her kids to share the tradition with. She has always emphasized the importance of family in our life. When you have no one else to turn to you will always have your family.

I absolutely agree with my mom that this tradition reflects the importance of family. Also in this tradition people get to display their sense of humor which is typically essential to forming their own personal identity. Personally, I have a very twisted sense of humor which is displayed quite evidently during this tradition. While the idea of white elephant gifts may not be specific to my Italian heritage I do feel it reflects the emphasis on family values my family has always demonstrated, and is typically a trademark of the Italian culture. Times like this with my family have always been one of my favorite memories and I certainly intend on continuing this tradition with my children when that time comes.