Every year, for Christmas, our family plays the game White Elephant. We have a lot of family and extended family come to visit for the holidays, so its fun to put some games together that everyone can participate in and be amused by. In White Elephant, each player/individual involved brings something, or a couple things, from home that they dont want anymore. They wrap it in Christmas paper, and everyone sets these gifts in a pile near the tree. On Christmas, starting with the youngest present, each person takes turns going up to the pile and picking a gift; the gifts can be as random as an old sweater or a gardening pot, but the concept of the game is based on the old proverb One mans trash is another mans treasure.
This is a game that my family has played for years. As my sister stated, we usually have a ton of guests over for Christmas: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, significant others, etc. Though many groups still exchange sentimental Christmas gifts, we wanted to start using a game that would result in everybody participating and everybody receiving a gift.
The game is traditionally played Christmas afternoon after the unwrapping of the normal gifts and right before dinner. This is also a point in the day at which many family members had consumed a beer or two and are ready for a few good laughs. The people who participate general provide very humorous or unique gifts; some past gifts have been: a flask, a fur coat, wind chimes, old board games, etc. This provides for a lot of entertainment, and many of the gifts relate to jokes within the family.
Little children do not generally participate in White Elephant for these reasons. The gifts provided by the older family members are typically supposed to be used by older teens and adults, and wouldnt be understood by small children. Also, the adults most likely wouldnt appreciate receiving a Barbie toy that was put into the pile by a 5-year-old.
The concept of White Elephant seems to be greatly influenced by the old proverb One mans trash is another mans treasure. In this game, something that seems old and useless to one player/family member can serve two functions: provide another person with something they might actually use, and provide the family with entertainment if the piece happens to inspire memories or jokes.
This game, among others, seems to be popular not only in my family, but in other families, as well. After discussing the game with various friends, I found that many of them participate in the same game, or at least one very similar with only slightly different rules. (These rules vary in terms of small details, such as order of picking gifts and what kinds of gifts can be given.) White Elephant also supports the Christmas spirit because it encourages the acts of giving and receiving gifts on this day, and being grateful for what members of a family have to give to each other. Though it is only one among many Christmas traditions, it still proves to be a consistently popular game among families who celebrate this holiday.