Before going into the nuts and bolts on how to make a fun white elephant party, it is good to have little perspective on this hundred years old tradition.
History of White Elephant Gift Exchange Party
The existence of white elephant is a myth that continues to be told until today.
Rare sights of white elephants have been reported in the past but it remains purely a legend that no solid or scientific evidence can prove.
The origin of white elephant came from Siam that is now known as Thailand. In Thailand, elephants have always been deployed to assist the locals in a number of daily tasks such as a mode of river transport.
However, white elephant is considered to be sacred and it is the duty of the owner to keep the white elephant happy.
Among the special treatments that white elephant enjoy is its exclusion from duties that normal elephants would have to perform.
All these make the maintenance of white elephant highly costly and outweigh its usefulness.
Historically, ancient kings and rulers use a white elephant gift as a soft arsenal to destroy the wealth of their enemies.
Considered as spiritually sacred animal, upkeeping of white elephant far outlived its usefulness.
It is a gift of little use and highly unwanted by whoever receiving it, but pleases whoever presenting it.
In the past, presenting white elephant as a gift is a practice used by Kings and Monarchs to destroy the wealth of their enemies.
When one received white elephant as a gift, it is their duty to keep it happy as long as it is alive and the high maintenance cost is enough to drain one of their wealth.
Today, white elephant is broadly used to refer to things in which the cost of up keeping it significantly outweigh their usefulness or benefits to the owners.
White elephant party is a holiday tradition that has been passed down over many generations.
It is one of the year-end party that has become the favorite choice among office or home party organizers.
While the basic rule of a white elephant party is simple, it takes a minimum amount of thoughts and planning to organize a successful one.
There is of course no hard and fast rule to organize a successful event, but there are few common sense rules and / or factors that would make your event planning a fun one.
Here are 5 proven steps to make your white elephant party fun.
Step #1 – Think about your audience
Without defining your audience properly, you are almost definitely going to screw up your gift exchange party.
Not understanding your audience properly means you do not have any idea what excites them and in some worse scenarios, you do not have any idea what are the things you need to avoid to make your party catastrophic.
Step #2 – Think about a theme that connects participants together
What makes a party fun is the common thing that connects your party participants together.
What makes cool gift idea usually comes from the common thing that is shared by the participants. That is why you need to find the one common thing that connects all of your audience together.
This connection may be a common topic of certain demographic or interest group or religious beliefs.
A good example is if the party is intended for families with young children, the common thing that connects every participant together is the children themselves and stories about their child developments.
In this case, a cartoon-theme party would make a perfect theme.
Step #3 – Set the budget and gift theme
Setting the gift budget and theme is probably the most oversight among party organizers.
Without specifying the gift budget, your participants would be coming into the party with their own expectations and trust me, their expectations will be misaligned.
Some will come to the party with carefully thought and possibly expensive gifts while there will always be a group who will come ill-prepared.
While participants will likely not express their disappointment upfront, these are things that should not be left to chances and can be avoided.
Step #4 – Set the rules of the game
What makes a white elephant party fun is indeed the surprises that each participant brings with them.
Over the years and over many generations, people have thought of creative ways to make the gift exchange game interesting.
One simple twist to the game is to impose a maximum limit in which a gift can be stolen .
Depending on the number of participants, the maximum can be set to 3 or 5.
Setting this limit will make one think harder of stealing a gift.
As a desired gift tends to be stolen more often, only the person holding the gift after 3 steals will get it.
This means that if say I badly want a gift, I would try to avoid stealing it unless it has been stolen twice before.
Another common twist usually comes at the end of the game.
As party host, you assign every participant a number.
The first person to arrive at the party usually becomes the first person to kick off the game by unwrapping an unopened gift.
This means that the first person is usually at a disadvantage.
At the end of the game, you can let this person have the final steal, therefore reversing his / her disadvantage into advantage instead.
If you are the punctual sort of person or maybe need to finish the party early, this twist in the rule can be announced in advance as it will encourage your participants to be early.
There are of course many other twists that you can incorporate into a white elephant party.
One advice is to make the rules and twists known in advance so that no one will cry foul or unfair (though white elephant party is meant to be a lighthearted affair).
For example, you can keep the ‘first person as last person to steal’ a secret but let the audience know that there’ll be a twist at the end of the game.
Step #5 – Choose the music
Music is definitely an important aspect to a year-end Christmas party.
Music sets the rhythm and mood of the party.
Think about what kind of party you desire and make sure that you put all the right songs in your portable MP3 players or iPhones. If your party guests are mostly grown-ups, this Sexy Christmas House Tunes is something to juice up your party atmosphere.