White Elephant Gift Exchange Rules and Printables

The White Elephant Gift Exchange is easy on the budget and a fun way to celebrate with family and friends! Use our White Elephant Gift Exchange Rules and Printables to make your Christmas party a smashing success!

Why is it called White Elephant?

White Elephant is defined as a possession that is useless or troublesome, especially one that is expensive to maintain or difficult to dispose of. Supposedly, the King of Siam gifted rare albino elephants to courtiers who had displeased him, that they might be ruined by the animals’ upkeep costs.

The term White Elephant refers to a gift whose maintenance costs exceed its usefulness.

In the case of a White Elephant Gift Exchange, gifts are typically humorous ‘gag’ gifts or gifts that have been received but the recipient no longer has a use for. Unlike the Dirty Santa Gift Exchange, White Elephant gifts are generally more humorous than useful.

White Elephant Gift Exchange Game

Who Should Host A White Elephant Gift Exchange?

If you are looking for a way to celebrate Christmas with friends and family, without adding stress to your guests’ Christmas Budget, a White Elephant Gift Exchange is perfect for you.

A White Elephant Party provides the opportunity for a fun and energetic evening and is best suited for those with a cheerful disposition.

Who Should NOT Host A White Elephant Gift Exchange?

We once hosted a gift exchange party for middle schoolers. Some were offended when their friends stole their gifts. How could they?

A White Elephant Christmas Party may not be in your best interest for children or anyone who may get uptight about stolen gifts.

Stealing gifts is what makes White Elephant FUN!

White Elephant Gift Exchange Rules and Printables

Many party goers don’t know the difference between a White Elephant and Dirty Santa party. Clarify what White Elephant gifts are so your guests won’t be the brunt of jokes when they bring a ‘real’ gift.

Often a $10 amount is placed on White Elephant gifts. It’s best to let your guests know the dollar amount you choose.

1. Place wrapped gifts in the center of the room.

When entering, have your guests place their gifts just inside the door to keep gifts anonymous.

2. Have each guest draw a number.

Oh, LOOK! I’m helping you out with this step!

3. The guest holding #1 goes first.

Who would’ve guessed?

4. Number one chooses a gift, unwraps it, and oohs and aahs before putting it on display for all to see.

Gifts must stay in view at all times and remain in their original packaging, if applicable. NO EATING THE FRUITCAKE!

5. Each subsequent guest has two options; they can either steal a gift from a guest who has gone before them or choose an unopened gift from the center of the room.

6. If a guest has their gift stolen, they can either steal from another or choose an unopened gift.

They may NOT steal the same gift that was just stolen from them until the next round.

7. Gifts can be stolen up to three times. A gift is frozen with the fourth owner.

Encourage your guest to steal. Stealing makes for a fun, lively game!

8. If number one has the same gift they started with, they may choose to trade with any unfrozen gift.

9. The jig’s up! Now wasn’t that a blast?

There are many variations to the White Elephant Gift Exchange rules. Just be sure you all are in agreement before you get the party started!

No one wants that laughter to turn to whining so be sure to print out the rules to ensure you’re all on the same page and everyone keeps smiling!

Print off a few and leave them scattered throughout the room. When that persnickety guest questions your motives, it’s all in fine print!

White Elephant Gift Ideas

Check out these $10 White Elephant Gift Exchange Ideas.

Are you ready to party?

I’m wishing you a loud and boisterous White Elephant Gift Exchange full of laughter, fun, and useless, crazy gifts!

Similar Posts


  1. We used to do the white elephant game every Christmas for years. Eventually our family got bigger with grandchildren now having spouses. Not everyone in the family had a partner and one year one of the single players became angry and stated that my daughter cheated because she told her husband that she wanted the gift that was stolen from her so he picked it on his turn and it happened to be the final exchange for that gift. The other single players then joined in and they said the couples do not follow the rules by telling their partners what to pick and the single players were at a disadvantage. Whew! I have never heard of this being a rule and I was sad to see such a fun game turned into an accusation of my daughter breaking the rules when we never even knew it was a rule “not to cohort or make suggestions to other players on what to choose”! Is this a rule to not cheer on or suggest a steal? Even if it wasn’t with your spouse – you are not supposed to suggest or encourage the person who is choosing the gift which gift to pick! I have searched and searched for this answer. This obviously put a stop to the game in our family because the purpose was to have fun and enjoy getting together – never occurred to me and my children that there were more detailed rules to this game. Please set me straight and enlighten me if we broke the rules?!?!?!?

    1. Hi Liz! I’m sorry to hear the White Elephant fun had to come to a stop in your family. In my research I have not found such detailed rules. Stealing is part of the fun! There does need to be a shift of mindset. A White Elephant Gift Exchange is not the place to expect the gift of your dreams. My son hosted his first gift exchange party when he was 11. A gift he loved was stolen from him and he was super upset. It was an excellent learning experience. Fast forward four years later where he received a girl’s hat at a gift exchange party and he wore it proudly! The whole experience is meant to be light hearted and fun! It’s kind of boring if no one steals.

    2. I use to have a copy of a poem to read for White Elephant every time the word White Elephant we would come up we passed the gift to the right or the left does anyone have that poem ??? If so could you send it to me

  2. This sounds like so much fun! I’ve never been to a Dirty Santa OR a White Elephant party. I’m going to start whining now, because I want to play! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *