What Is a White Elephant Gift Exchange?

white-elephant-gift-exchange Credit: Ariel Skelley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

A white elephant gift exchange is a game popular at holiday parties. Each guest brings a wrapped gift of nominal value. The exchange gives the player the choice of opening an unopened gift or taking a gift from another player, who then takes a new gift.

Once all guests arrive, they draw a number to determine the order of choosing gifts. A white elephant exchange works best with at least four people, but it becomes cumbersome with more than 20 guests. There are several ways to play the game, so the host should explain the ground rules before the game begins. Having a few extra gifts on hand ensures everyone gets to play, even people who forgot to bring a gift to the party.