As you can infer by the title of my blog, I’m fascinated by the concept of the white elephant. Once upon a time it referred to possessions too valuable to part with, but also too burdensome for their worth (as a big ole white elephant would be). But these days, the proverbial white elephant tends to be more of the gaudy-glass-pelican-figurine-in-the-back-of-your-closet variety. For the purposes of both my blog title, and the fabulous white elephant exchanges in which we partake this time of year, I consider white elephants to be those things we spend a heck of a lot of time thinking about, but really just don’t matter.
With the gift-giving season in full swing, the stress of finding the perfect gift for the people you care about is overshadowed by that of finding gifts for the people you don’t care about at all. You have party hosts, coworkers, neighbors, and other randoms in your life that you will undoubtedly want to provide with the obligatory bottle of wine or fruitcake. But is it tacky to give them the candy dish that your best friend’s mom gave you last year? Is it enough to bake six dozen reindeer-shaped cookies and call it a day? We need to take the stress out of the most un-thoughtful gifts we give during the holidays, so I’ve crafted some guidelines to help you get through another season of white elephants:
1. DO give last year’s candy dish. It gives them something to give away the following year so you’re really doing them a favor.
2. DO give fruitcake. It’s so cliché it’s almost trendy.
3. DO give cheap wine. They’ll be getting twenty other bottles anyways. Just wrap it sans tag, toss it in the jungle of wines on their bar and you’re all set!
4. DON’T run out and get a gift for a coworker the day after they give you something. They’re already onto the fact that you didn’t “accidentally” leave their gift at home, so save your cash and just say thank you.
5. DON’T pay for a white elephant gift for your office exchange. That Grease 2 VHS tape with the plastic wrap still on it will do just fine.
6. DO bring cookies to a party. The hostess feels like she got a thoughtful gift and you get to eat them. Win-win.
7. DON’T make your gift. Save your blood, sweat and tears for grandma’s new quilt, not for the neighbor’s coupon book offering to mow their lawn or sit their kids.
8. DON’T participate in Secret Santa gift exchanges with “randoms.” That’s how you end up getting a gold necklace with a blindingly blingy four-inch tall B hanging from it.
9. DO give candles. Ever notice how people love giving candles? Giving candles is apparently the most rewarding feeling. I’m not sure if people enjoy receiving candles, but heck it’s all about you! And besides, IKEA has ’em for like four cents. If I had a candle for every time I got a candle…
10. DON’T send Christmas cards to everyone. If they aren’t worth a fruitcake they aren’t worth a stamp. And that forty-something cents will buy you a LOT of candles.
So when it comes to your mother, your children, your best friend, or any white elephant party where your integrity as a clever gifter is at stake, it’s best to go big. But if you’re lying awake at night mulling over gift ideas for your sister-in-law’s best friend’s uncle, heeding these guidelines will have you sugarplum-visioning in no time.
What’s your best white elephant gift?