The White and the Green Elephants
Eight Mrs. Green Reflections
Just about everyone I know has been to, or at least been invited to, a white elephant holiday gift exchange party. Typically everyone brings an unmarked wrapped present and people take numbers, get to pick their gift to open or “steal” a present that has already been opened. The gifts cannot be stolen once the third participant touches the gift. (The gifts can be funny, outrageous, silly or even nice and often times are items re-gifted from something you already own.) I participated in two such parties last week – one white elephant and one our Mrs. Green Team decided to dub a “green” elephant exchange and quite frankly – both of them were fun and downright hilarious in different ways.
Before I provide a few reflections from Mrs. Green on both of them, I had to find out where in the heck the term white elephant came from. Thank goodness for Google because the stories about its origin abound. According to Wikipedia, the term “white elephant” refers to an extravagant but burdensome gift that cannot be easily disposed of, based on the legend of the King of Siam gifting rare albino elephants to courtiers who had displeased him, that they might be ruined by the animals’ upkeep costs. (Who would have thunk?) The term also refers to a gift whose maintenance costs exceed its usefulness. Care to know LOTS more? You are one click away.
FYI, the green elephant exchange was the same as a white elephant but we added the request that no new gift wrapping be used. Cloth, reusable bags, newspaper and last year’s holiday gift bags were given the green light. As for the white elephant, the rule was that new gifts were okay as long as they did not exceed $25 in value.
My thoughts in no particular order:
- I LOVED participating because both of these fun exchanges required me to think, not just buy.
- Both were totally stress free because I was responsible for bringing and wrapping only ONE gift.
- It was so much fun opening my gifts, getting my gifts stolen and then lucking out as the gifts I really wanted came home with me.
- The focus was really and truly on fun, laughter, cleverness (well – maybe not in my case), thoughtfulness and not on out-doing one another with gifts that break the budget.
- I rarely have seen a group of grown-ups have so much fun stealing, hiding gifts and laughing for $25 or less.
- Families or individuals who are strapped for cash at this time of year can meaningfully participate.
- I liked both exchanges so much that I put the word out about starting this tradition within my own family. I hope it is well received.
- Both experiences truly put me in the “Tis the Season to Be Jolly” mood at a time in my life (and in the world) where being jolly can take quite an effort given the daily news headlines.
p.s. Needless to say, at MGW we always appreciate hearing from our tribe. Please drop us an email if you feel moved to add your own story. I will include them in the last newsletter/blog of the year or post them on Facebook.