Here we are again. Holiday Season is the time for White Elephant games.
I spent five years trying to like the White Elephant gift exchange. Five more boycotting it. And now I’m in the stage of trying to figure out how I can just deal with it without becoming homicidal.
Everyone has a cause. Some people want to save the boobs. Some people want to end world hunger. I want to banish all White Elephant gift exchanges.
Two rights don’t make a bigger right.
The origin of this game is unclear. But it sure looks like someone thought, “Hey, gifts are fun and games are fun – let’s put them together.”
But gift giving and competition are opposite concepts. Giving (and receiving) is a mostly altruistic act. It is designed to show someone that you care for them. Competition is designed to show others that you’re out for yourself.
Gift exchanging should be enjoyable.
When you choose a gift for someone, you do it with them in mind. When you choose a gift for a White Elephant game, you do it with yourself in mind. You choose a gift that you would be happy getting. But you have no certainty that the final receiver will enjoy it.
And it is likely that your gift will get re-gifted in another White Elephant exchange if they don’t like it. So there is little inspiration for choosing a gift to bring.
Receiving a gift is accepting someone’s feelings about you in a tangible form. It’s learning how someone perceives you.
Receiving a gift at a White Elephant game holds neither of these. If you win a gift that you like, you perceive yourself as a winner. If you win someone’s “joke gift” or something you have no use or excitement around, you’re a loser. You give yourself the consolation prize of, “I can re-gift this.”
We have totally lost the beauty of giving and receiving with the White Elephant game.
The contest rules are squirrely.
You can find the rules for playing the game online. But there are no rules for winning the game. A game implies competition. Competition implies a winner and a loser.
If there’s a White Elephant game on the planet where everyone walks away a winner, I’ll kiss your ass.
Because everyone buys what they would like, everyone’s idea of winning is different.
Sister and I were commiserating on our upcoming family White Elephant party. She was complaining that a few years ago she got the shaft with a crap present. The present she had labeled as crap, I had been interested in. She pointed out the very cool gift that she brought last year. I viewed her very cool gift as a crap gift.
Best Friend’s family tends to compete in another direction. They try to see who can bring the coolest gift. The competition, in this case, has switched from receiving to giving. But the problem still remains. Everyone measures on a different scale. There are no winners because there is no clear criteria.
And then there’s the intentional crap gift.
Occasionally some jackass will buy a joke gift that’s no fun to anyone. I don’t understand if they believe they are truly being funny, or if it’s their way to boycott the party. Perhaps the White Elephant game is so frustrating to them that they feel the need to retaliate.
This game is a fat naked Emperor walking down the street. And I’m the little kid pointing. The White Elephant Gift Exchange is no fun. Sure, sometimes you walk away with something you’re interested in. But what’s the emotional damage?
Competition is competition. Giving and receiving is about how people feel about one another. Can we please just leave it at that?
What do you think? Have you been damaged by White Elephant game? Please share in the comments.