White Elephant Party

white elephant party ideas

A white elephant party is a wild, wacky, and really fun Christmas party theme. Here is how to host a gift exchange sure to get everyone in the holiday spirit!
What is a “White Elephant”?
 Well, Wikipedia describes a white elephant as a valuable possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost (particularly cost of upkeep) is out of proportion to its usefulness or worth. The term refers to the sacred white elephants kept by royalty in Southeast Asia which traditionally represented a kingdom’s peace and prosperity…problem is, although they are special, they are of no practical use and they cost a fortune to feed!

In terms of a modern-day white elephant party, the term refers to a gift that, while some may find it amusing or “special”, is something you could probably live without. Nonetheless, the exchange of some wacky gifts makes this a great Christmas party theme!


Set the tone for your party right from the start with great invitations. A white elephant party is meant to be a little bit silly. You can either make your own invitations or send pre-made cards. Here are some ideas for both options: :

Do You Believe? — On the front of a fold over card, write the words, “Do You Believe?” and add any graphic that you like. Then on the inside, write “In White Elephants!” Suspend reality and join us for a night of food, fun, and tom foolery. (add the rest of your party information.)

“Twas a Week Before Christmas — ‘Twas a week before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except…… A big white elephant at the _______ House! Please join us at our White Elephant Party (add the rest of your party information.)

“How to Catch a White Elephant” –Go to a place where there are white elephants. Bring with you a muffin (with raisins). Climb a tree. When a white elephant is close, drop the muffin (with raisins). Repeat this procedure for five days in a row. After the fifth day the white elephant will be used to its daily muffin (with raisins). The sixth day you climb the tree, bring with you a muffin without raisins. Drop the muffin as usual. When the elephant finds out that the muffin lacks raisins, it will darken with anger…..and then you catch it the same way as an ordinary gray elephant. OR Come to the ____________ White Elephant Party and snag one from under the tree. (add the rest of your party information.)

Elephant in a Box — Find some small toy elephants and attach to each a decorative tag with ribbon that gives your party information. Either hand deliver to your guests’ front doors or put into a small box and send each guest their very own elephant before the party even starts!

In case your guests have never been to this type of party before, it is important to explain what it is and that they should each bring a gift to participate. Here is an example of what you might write:

“To participate in our white elephant game, each person should bring a cheap (under $?), silly, fun, ridiculous, or “just lying around the house” wrapped mystery gift to be exchanged in a madcap session of bargaining, strategy, and dumb luck.”

**Also, a white elephant exchange works best when you have at least 6 guests, and not more than 25. If you plan on having both men and women, you might suggest that your guests bring something that would be acceptable to either gender.

You can always find lots of great online party invitations with a free RSVP manager at Evite,


Here are some great invitations that we have found around the web:

White Elephant Invitations
Red and White Elephant Invitations
Goofy Elephant Invitations


White Elephant Party Decorations

Chances are, if you are having your party during the holiday season, you probably don’t need to do too much more to decorate for your party. If you want to give things that extra touch, here are a few suggestions:

Scour Goodwill or local discount stores for statues of elephants (the tackier the better.) Tie big holiday bows around their necks and set them out around your party area.

Think “White Christmas”.  There are lots of fun items that come in white, silver, and light blue that can all tie in nicely with a white elephant theme.

If you don’t already have a Christmas tree put up, consider buying a small one to put in the room where you will host the white elephant game. Then as your guests arrive they can place their gifts for the white elephant exchange under the tree.

Add to the festivities of the evening by purchasing traditional Christmas crackers (the kind with prizes inside, not the food!) Make a centerpiece out of these by arranging them in a large decorative basket. Then, when the party is well underway, distribute one to each guest as a unique party favor. (Most Christmas crackers come with a paper crown, a small toy, and a joke inside each — guaranteed to add some fun to the evening.)

Complete Holiday Party Tableware from Amazon.com

How to Host a White Elephant Exchange

  • Before the party, place small numbered slips of paper in a basket (one for each guest).
  • Have everyone sit down with the wrapped white elephant gifts displayed before the group and explain the rules.



1. Each person should draw a number from the basket.

2. The person who drew the number 1 begins by unwrapping one of the gifts and showing it to the group (displaying and “selling” your gift is half the fun.)

3. Person #2 can now either open a new gift or steal the open gift from person #1. Then #3 follows and so forth.

**NOTE — If your gift gets stolen, you have the option of either opening a new gift or stealing an open gift from someone else. Once a gift has been opened it can be stolen by anyone whose turn it is, with two exceptions:

  • You can’t steal back a gift that has just been stolen from you.
  • Once a gift has been stolen 3 times it is out of play and stays with the last stealer.

4. Play continues until everyone has a gift.

**Optional game rule — You might give the #1 person a chance to steal a different gift at the very end of the game since they otherwise do not get that opportunity.


What Makes a Good White Elephant Gift?

white elephant party gift ideas

What are some good gift ideas for a white elephant exchange? Try one of these:

  • Something under $20
  • Something so ugly it’s cute
  • A nostalgic toy
  • A fad item
  • Something a little naughty (depending on your group)
  • Something ridiculous or useless


Here are some more of our favorite white elephant ideas for gifts:

  • A framed, autographed photo of your host or yourself
  • A garden gnome
  • A giant wrapped salami
  • A tacky ceramic sculpture
  • Old record albums


**A great resource for funny white elephant gifts is Archie McPhee.com.

Food and Drinks for a White Elephant Party

Because this party lends itself to people getting up and mingling, finger foods are probably the way to go. You might include:

• A Veggie Tray
• A Meat and Cheese Tray
• Crackers with a hearty dip
• An assortment of party sandwiches
• A few choices of warm hors d’oeuvres
• A cookie platter


** Another idea that will make your party well-remembered is to come up with a signature drink for the event. Maybe you have a “white” drink, or one red and one green cocktail. There are many bartending websites out there with great ideas to help you out. One that we like is www.drinkswap.com.

Hope you’ve found some helpful ideas on this page. Happy holidays!

If you enjoyed these white elephant party ideas, you might also enjoy these parties:

ugly christmas sweater party
Ugly Christmas
Sweater Party
ornament exchange party
Exchange Party
new years eve party ideas
New Year’s
Eve Party



  1. Thanks for the ideas! This will help with our white elephant Christmas party 🙂

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