My family is huge.
When I was younger, there were presents for everyone, purchased by each member of the family. There would be a few presents under the tree for the adults at the beginning of our Christmas Eve feast. After dinner, the parents and their respective children went for a walk. When we all came back, the bottom of the tree was pouring out with presents galore.
Nowadays, being that I am the youngest at 25ish, we are all pretty hard to buy for, and some members of the family have decided to get married and have families of their own and celebrate Christmas with their own extended families.
1. There is really no way of knowing (besides the normal aunts and uncles) WHO will show up. Sometimes there are 20 of us, sometimes 30. Sometimes just a basic 8.
2. No matter how many people show up, there is really no buying of presentS. What if 8 people show up and what if they are not the 8 you expected? What if 30 people show up and 15 of them have no present to open?! Que horror! Everyone needs something to open on Christmas!
The answer? The White Elephant game.
Here is what Wikipedia says about the rules and origin of the game:
“In its most basic form, the gameplay is as follows: Each participant supplies one wrapped and unlabeled gift. Participants determine in what order they will take turns choosing gifts. The first person opens a wrapped gift and the turn ends. The second person gets the choice of “stealing” any unwrapped item or choosing a wrapped one from the gift pile. If the second person steals the gift from the first person, then the first person can choose a replacement gift from the pile of wrapped presents. No immediate steal-backs are allowed. Stealing back a gift that was once in your possession must wait at least one-turn removed before stealing it back. On the third person’s turn they can then steal an unwrapped item or choose a wrapped one. If an item is stolen from you, you can steal a gift from someone else, or open a wrapped one. A gift cannot be stolen more than once in a turn. Turns continue until everyone has a gift. At the end of the last turn, the first person, who had no choice of stealing at the beginning, can choose to “exchange” their current gift with any player.
Gifts are typically inexpensive, humorous items or used items from home. The term white elephant refers to a gift whose maintenance costs exceed its usefulness. While the first use of this term remains an item of contention among historians, one theory suggests that Ezra Cornell brought the term into the popular lexicon through his numerous and frequent social gatherings that date back to as early as 1828.”
We bend the rules a little bit, because although this game is super interactive and fun, we like to get nice gifts.
I have definitely had a flub though. When I was about 24, I thought I was being cute and funny when I bought season one of Mad Men and the Christmas album from Glee. Someone who didn’t keep up with pop culture picked up my gift and was wondering what the heck “a Glee” was. Word from the wise: if you choose to play this game, get neutral item. Yes, people can trade, but not forever.
Here are some neutral items: