5 Ways to Add Sparkle to Your White Elephant Party

Stack of Christmas gifts with sparkles in the backgroundTraditions are, by their very definition, repetitive. But that doesn’t mean we’re cursed to repeat those Christmas rituals in exactly the same way, year after year. Ideally, each holiday event should be both familiar and unique.

Maybe you have a group that does a White Elephant party every year, and you want to guard against things getting stale. Or maybe you just want to make sure your holiday gathering is unlike any other. In either case, the solution is simple: Add something extra.

Here are five ideas for making your White Elephant party stand out from all the other holiday gatherings. Not all of these options are appropriate for every group, but one of them might be perfect for your group. In fact, it might even become a new holiday tradition.

1. Pick a gift theme

One excellent way to spice things up is to have people bring gifts that fit a particular theme. There are many themes you can run with, depending on the group’s interests and preferences. Here are a few popular ones:

As you might imagine, some themes make it harder for the attendees to come up with an appropriate gift, while others could actually make it easier. More challenging themes (“find something that goes on a wall”) are generally better for close-knit groups. Less challenging themes (“bring a candy gift”) are ideal for more formal gatherings, such as office parties.

2. Employ different game rules

There are roughly a zillion different ways to play White Elephant. If the people in your group are used to playing it a certain way, you might want to throw them a curve by using rules variations. For example, you could try the “swap before opening” version of the game. Or, if you’re hosing a smaller group, you could try playing the game with dice.

3. Hold an ugly sweater contest

This idea could literally add sparkle to the party, as people come dressed in the gaudiest Christmas sweaters they can get their hands on. The nice thing about an ugly Christmas sweater contest is that it doesn’t have to take up a lot of time at your party. Nor does it put too much of a burden on the attendees, as they can either make or buy their ugly sweaters (yes, there are many places to buy ugly sweaters online). All you have to do is figure out how the winner will be picked, and come up with some sort of nominal prize.

4. Rent a karaoke machine

This one could be a big hit if you have natural-born entertainers in your group. Or if you’re serving alcohol. Obviously, you’ll want to load your karaoke playlist with Christmas classics like “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” Most importantly, make sure you’ve got time for this activity, as it can stretch on for hours.

5. Break out the Christmas games

Just because it’s a White Elephant party doesn’t mean you can’t play other Christmas-themed games. Here are a few options:

  • Christmas Movie Trivia
  • Christmas Charades
  • Name That Christmas Carol

Games can work well with both small and large groups, though the latter requires a little extra planning. As with karaoke, the main issue is whether you have enough time for a gift exchange and other Christmas games – plus eating, socializing, and whatever other activities you have planned.

Does that cover everything? Not even close! Based on what you know about your invitees, you can doubtless come up with many more ideas for making this year’s White Elephant party even more fun and memorable.

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Roberta Jeeves is author of the book White Elephant Gift Exchange: Rules, Themes, and Ideas for Hosting a Perfect Holiday Gift Swap. You can buy or borrow it at Amazon.com.

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