I’m Dreaming of a White Elephant: Gift Game Trumps Secret Santa

Zoe Foose, Sentry Staff Reporter

As December begins, so does holiday cheer. Throughout the whole month, friends and family gather around and take part in holiday festivities. Many celebrate by decorating their homes, watching classic movies, listening to festive music and giving/receiving presents. One fun way to give and receive gifts is through games. The two most well known holiday gift exchange games are Secret Santa and White Elephant. 

Secret Santa is a cherished Christmas tradition. Family members or friends are randomly assigned a person to whom they give a gift. Before being assigned a Secret Santa, each person must create a wishlist of things they would like to receive. It is then the gift giver’s job to make sure nobody finds out who their person is and to buy something on their assigned person’s list. Finally, during the gift exchange, after opening their gift, each person tries to guess who their secret Santa was. 

White Elephant, also known as Yankee Swap, is quite different. This game’s emphasis is on ‘stealing gifts’. There are many versions of this game, so each group must decide on specific rules like budget and number of steals beforehand. The gifts are usually less personalized and each person is unsure of who will end up with the gift they bought. The game is more based on entertainment and will always keep guests guessing; however, it is best to play with those who have a similar sense of humor. One of the best elements of this game is that everyone can have fun even when on a budget.

White Elephant is a simple and inexpensive way to have a lot of fun over the holidays. The excitement increases each time someone unwraps a gift due to the ability to steal gifts. In Secret Santa, there is so much pressure to pick the “perfect” gift for one person, since everyone has different interests and needs, making it quite difficult and possibly stressful. White Elephant is less expensive and more comical, which allows groups of people to simply have fun and enjoy each other’s company which is the true meaning of the holidays.

The holidays can be a very stressful time for many. To relieve this stress, why not indulge in a fun, comical game of White Elephant? With no pressure to find a “perfect” gift, White Elephant alleviates seasonal stress and, without this game, your holiday may lack excitement. The mood swings felt while playing the game are unbeatable. One minute a person may be the happiest in the room and the next, they could be pouting in the corner after their ideal gift is stolen. Once beginning the game, people get so into it, it seems as though they forget about everything else. 

As families, who may have not seen each other for awhile, gather together during the holidays, there may be tension from time apart. White Elephant will bring a sense of amusement to each household and is guaranteed to be a conversation starter. 

In the end, both games are great ways to give gifts during the holiday season; however, if you are looking to alleviate stress while enjoying time with family, White Elephant is the game for you. 

While Elephant Rules:

Each guest brings a wrapped gift and places it in a designated area. Guests are given numbers as they arrive and select gifts in that order. On the first turn, the person assigned with #1 picks out a gift and opens it so all can see what it is. On the second turn, the person assigned with #2 gets the choice of “stealing” #1’s unwrapped gift or choosing a wrapped one from the pile. If #2 steals #1’s gift, then #1 must choose and open a wrapped gift. As other players take their turns, they either select a new gift or take any already opened gift from any of the other players.