Nov 21, 2011

White Elephant

It is the holiday season.  And we all know what that means, right?  CHRISTMAS PARTY TIME!!!  Sorry, to be appropriate, I guess I should say, HOLIDAY PARTY TIME!!!  (But, let's be honest, when I have ever strived to be appropriate?)  CHRISTMAS PARTY TIME!!!

One of the best parts of any good Christmas party is . . . the Christmas Bonus.  Aside from that, though, the best thing may be the Gift Exchange.  A good party can become legendary with a good Gift Exchange.  There are several versions of this - the Yankee Swap, the $5 and under, the Cookie Exchange, and (of course) the White Elephant.  To help you, my teeming masses of blogosphere friends, with your search for the perfect gift, I will offer up some White Elephant suggestions.  I have always considered myself a very good White Elephant gift exchange participant.  But I have also kept my best ideas to myself, hoping to use them.  However, now I work at a ministry with five employees.  So we don't have gift exchanges OR Christmas parties.  My gift to you, then, is my White Elephant Gift List.

Now, there are some rules for the gift exchange participant.  I want to go through those first, so that these gift ideas don't end up getting you fired or ostracized.

  1. Know The Party Type - This is a big problem.  Many places don't define their gift exchange party, so you get an amalgam of gifts.  If you are running a party, make sure people know what they are supposed to be bringing.  If you are going to a party, make sure you ask what exactly you should bring.  I HATE it when I go to a regular $5 And Under party and some dingbat brings a fruitcake.  There isn't really good swapping going on when all the gifts aren't in the same class.
  2. Don't Bring Fruitcake - Seriously, no originality there.  Ha ha.  Everyone hates fruitcake.  Joke's over.  Also, don't bring singing fish, dancing Santas, or any other cliched item.  Be original.  And, while we are at it, stay away from $5 bills and gift cards.  Those are going to get stolen and locked immediately.  Put some thought into it.  (I can't emphasize this enough.)
  3. No Tennis Shoes - In one White Elephant exchange, I got a dirty tennis shoe.  In another, I got a blown out egg shell.  There was some laughter, but again, there is no swapping with those.  And the person who gets stuck with it feels ripped off.  So, don't bring broken or completely useless stuff.  It is just mean.
  4. Keep It Moving - Gift Exchanges can be great, but they can also drag out for hours.  If you are running the party, keep things moving.  If you are a participant, know when your number is called. Don't hide your gifts.  And don't make a big deal if you get stolen from.  Just keep things going.
  5. Clearly Define and Stick to The Rules - How many rounds?  How many times can something be stolen?  Can the first person go again at the end?  Is everything free game at that point?  You don't want the event ruined because someone got miffed at the end.  Also, don't break the money limit.  Again, it just isn't fun when someone brings a $20 gift and everything else is under $5.
  6. Know Your Crowd - There is a gold mine of suggestions by knowing the people you work with, thinking through shared history, knowing the hierarchy of your company.  Also, if your co-workers don't have senses of humor, that really hampers your flexibility.
Okay, enough preaching.  ON TO THE SUGGESTIONS!!!  These are going to be for the White Elephant Gift Exchange.  I'm not giving ones for the other types.  Remember, White Elephant gifts should be humorous and creative.  So, think about your audience and have fun.  Here are some ideas.
  • A Live White Mouse - Sure, the PETA people will probably get angry at you.  But this is a great idea!  And it is cheap.  I actually did this in college at a Student Government exchange.  The guy who got it was shaking the box and I said, "Uh, you may not want to do that." When he opened it, I guarantee you he wasn't expecting THAT!  And, it ended up being a hot item because one of the guys in our group had a snake.  
  • An Actual White Elephant - The obviousness of this gift makes it a great idea.  I also used this once.  We had a little white ceramic elephant that I used.  And, with the large number of "do it yourself" ceramics places out there, it is pretty easy to make your own if you can't find it.  A White Elephant Mug.  A White Elephant Plate.  Good stuff.
  • Framed Picture - This is an idea I had and never got to do.  If you work at a church or a company with a very identifiable leader, get a picture of this person.  (It works really well if there is already a photo that gets used for promotional materials.)  Print the picture at 8x10 or 11x13 and buy a cheap frame at a dollar store.  Then frame it and wrap it.  It's funny because no one wants to make any negative comments, because the guy is right there.  And it is also fun to see the brown nosers fight to get the picture.
  • "Men Of..." Calendar - It is so easy now to print creative gifts.  And most of them aren't that expensive, especially at places like Sam's or Costco.  Or use Snapfish when they are running a special.  My thoughts for this is to get pictures of several of your co-workers.  Candids work best, especially innocent ones that can be misconstrued in the wrong context.  Then make a 2012 Men (or Women) Of The Company Calendar.  This works GREAT for church staffs, since there is no way this would ever exist outside of a prank.
  • Justin Bieber  - No adult in their right mind will admit to liking the Beebster.  So, get something Bieberlicious and wrap it on up.  There are dolls, shirts, purses.  Lots of available options.  And, since they are aimed at kids, a lot of them are pretty reasonable.  You also could go this same route with Twilight, Big Time Rush, or anything else that makes a tweener girl screech.  [ED NOTE: My friend, Candy, reminded me that she used a Justin Bieber toothbrush at a recent party and it was a HUGE success.]
  • Fake CD - This required some Photoshop skills.  Come up with a fake band and create a fake CD. I did this for my brother-in-law one year and then put an iTunes card inside the case.  Here's how it goes:  Pick a band (Screaming Monkey Trees), come up with a cool album name (The Monkey Within), create some weird and funny cover, and then make a fake CD using some of the worst songs you can find in your iTunes library.  Or, just take advantage of the 69 cent or free songs on Amazon's MP3 store or the iTunes store.  
  • Real CD - If you can't create one yourself, go to a used CD store or Walmart and get something like The Chipmunks or Milli Vanilli.  Better yet, if you know someone in your office who loves a music style/artist that no one else likes, this is a great way to utilize that inner-office history.  Go find a copy of Polka or Tribal Music or War Chants.  Make sure you play up how bad the album is, to tweak your co-worker.  (You can do the same thing with horrible movies like Jumper or Glitter or Gigli or with horrible books like Twilight.)
  • Goofy Ornament - There are some ridiculous ornaments out there.  Find one that you just can't believe is actually offered and wrap it up.  Good rule of thumb: If you think something is beyond stupid, it is perfect for a White Elephant exchange.
  • Sports Team Items - Another chance to tap into your office knowledge.  If you have a lot of Gator fans in the office, get some FSU stuff.  If there are Seminole fans, get Miami stuff.  Alabama fans?  Stock up on Auburn gifts.  If you have one very vocal fan of something like Ohio State, find some insulting pro-Michigan stuff.  Don't be afraid to target one or two people with the gift.  That is still funny.
Well, I hope that gives you some good ideas.  And I'm sure that you will get some good ideas as you shop.  The best thing is to give yourself a little lead time.  If you wait to the last minute, that eliminates things like the homemade and home printed stuff.  Or, if you see something hilarious in July, go ahead and get it.  You know the party is coming up, so it doesn't hurt to have it on hand.  If something looks stupid, it is a good start.  And feel free to share how your gifts went.  Have a great time at the party and be a good sport. 

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