White Elephant Gift Ideas for 2020

Holiday parties are all fun and games. In fact, one of the most popular holiday party games is the white elephant gift exchange also known as the Yankee Swap or Dirty Santa. This season, whether you’re attending a work holiday party that requires a white elephant gift or if you are hosting a gift exchange of your own to elevate your Christmas party ideas, it can benefit you to understand what the game is and how to play. Plus, have you ever wondered where this quirky game gets it’s name from? If you’re curious what white elephant gifts you should bring to the exchange this year or just want to learn more about the Christmas game, we have you covered with rules and ideas below!

white elephant gift ideas
These white elephant gift ideas and tips will not only help you put together the best gift ideas, but also help you polish your Christmas party game skills. Before we jump into our gift guide, we’ll lay out the details of the game.

Get right to our gift guide by clicking below:

What is The White Elephant Gift Exchange?

A white elephant gift exchange is a common holiday party game where participants exchange gifts and then compete to walk away with the best item. If not the best, then they can just hope for not ending up with the worst gift. Gifts for a white elephant game are usually something fun, new and in good taste, items that recipients will want to pick and actually use. On the other hand, while elephant gifts tend to be more comical. The goal of the gift exchange is to mainly entertain guests rather than gifting or receiving expensive sought-after items.

What is a Dirty Santa Gift Exchange?

A dirty santa gift exchange is another name for the white elephant game. The word “dirty” comes from the fact that participants are stealing gifts from one another to end up with the best.

How to Play White Elephant?

If you ask five people how to play white elephant you’ll most likely get a variety of answers. There are many variations for how to play white elephant and every host seems to play by their own rules. In it’s most basic form, the white elephant rules are as follows:

  1. Set a minimum gift value for participants such as $20. This will create incentive to play and ensure that all gifts are decent in value.
  2. Gather a large group of participants. The gift exchange flows smoothly if there are at least six or more people playing, so be sure to inform guests on your Christmas party invitations that you’ll be playing White Elephant. List the required gift value minimum on the invite as well.
  3. Set up a gift table. Each participant brings one wrapped gift which will be placed on a communal gift table.
  4. Next, participants must decide the order in which each guest will select a gift. The best way to do this is to have each participant select a number from a hat or sit in a circle.
  5. The guest who picks number one, will open a gift first then their turn is over. 
  6. Participants on the following turns have a choice to make. They can either open a new gift from the pile or they can steal a gift that has already been unwrapped from another player.
  7. If/when a participant’s gift has been stolen, the participant can either choose another unwrapped gift from the pile or steal from another player. 
  8. Since highly sought-after gifts are the only ones that will be getting stolen, to avoid prolonging the game you have the option of putting into place a few different rules. There are of course variations to this rule, but the following works best, set a limit on the number of times each gift can be stolen and after that number has been reached then the gift is essentially retired from the game.
  9. The game is over once there aren’t any more gifts on the communal gift table. 
  10. Another rule variation allows the first participant one last steal at the end of the game since he/she is the only player who had no choice but to open an unwrapped gift. 

Why do They Call it a White Elephant Gift Exchange?

The term white elephant gift exchange comes from the legend of the King of Siam who would gift his courtiers who had made him unhappy a white (albino) elephant. He gifted them this elephant because of the large amount of money and work it would take to take care of the elephant. The cost and maintenance of the animal was more than it’s usefulness.  Due to this, the gift left it’s receivers financially ruined and dishonored. This is how the term “white elephant” came to mean an unwanted gift.

White Elephant Gift Guide

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to gift giving, especially when you’re not sure who will be opening it. The iconic white elephant gift exchange is gift giving with a twist. The main goal of the game, as you now know,  is not necessarily for people to gain gifts that have been on their lists for years and years, but mostly to entertain the party-goers. Although, it is becoming more and more popular to use your gift item to not only entertain, but to also give something useful. Always check with the game host in advance to see if there is a gift value minimum to abide by when choosing your gift.

Don’t get overwhelmed or wait till the last minute to pick out a gift and don’t end up giving a gift card yet again. Embrace the giving mentality and pick out a gift that you would be happy to receive. Whether you’re looking for unique gift ideas for her or creative Christmas gifts for him, these are some of our most personalized and useful ideas that your guests will appreciate and want to take home. No matter who ends up opening or stealing your white elephant gift, you can assure that it will be the perfect fit for whomever by using our white elephant gift exchange ideas and guide below. Take home the title of star gift giver and watch everyone fight to call your present their own.

White Elephant Gift Ideas for The Hostess

wine glass gift

Wine Glass

pilsner glass gift

Pilsner Glass

wine bag gift

Wine Bag

cheese board white elephant

Cheese Board

White Elephant Gift Ideas for The Fashionista

canvas pouch

Canvas Pouch

canvas tote bag

Canvas Tote Bag

catch all tray

Catch All Tray



White Elephant Gift Ideas for Coworker

mousepad gift

Mouse Pad

easel calendar

Easel Calendar

desktop plaque

Desktop Plaque

photo cube

Photo Cube

White Elephant Gift Ideas Under $25

luggage tag

Luggage Tag



mouse pad

Mouse Pad

water bottle

Water Bottle

White Elephant Gift Ideas for The Coffee Lover

coasters white elephant gift ideas


coffee mug gift

Coffee Mug

stainless steel mug gift

Stainless Steel Mug

White Elephant Gift Ideas for The Pet Lover

Pet Bowl

Pet Bowl

personalized pet tag

Pet Tag

pet placemat

Pet Placemat

White Elephant Gift Ideas for The Stationery Guru



journal gift




The best part about these white elephant gifts is that you have the ability to personalize each and every one to your liking. We’re sure you will enjoy creating your gift just as much as whomever opens it.

Now that you’re all set to attend or even host your very own holiday party complete with a white elephant game, you’ll need to get all of your other holiday to-do’s done too. If you’re planning on hosting your own white elephant game this year, then you can use our wide selection of Christmas party invitations to invite all of your loved ones. If you are searching for more gift ideas for the holidays then you may want to check out our gift ideas for mom or gift ideas for sister. Finally, you wouldn’t want to forget about the custom gift wrap for all of these fun and creative presents.