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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Christmas (04/25/05)

TITLE: White Elephant
By Leticia Caroccio


White Elephant

Weeks and even months before Christmas was when we began to plan our individual strategies for White Elephant. The anticipation of the event was one that caused sneakiness and laughter in every house of its participants. White Elephant is a cherished family game that has become an annual tradition. It is played right after Christmas Eve dinner, just before the kids get to open one gift at the stroke of midnight.

Each person playing must bring to the party two gifts. These gifts cannot be store bought gifts; they must be something you already have at home. Traditionally, one gift must be a gag gift, something funny and unexpected. The second gift is supposed to be something nice and that perhaps have some value, monetary or sentimental.

You count the number of people playing and each person picks out a number from a hat. Pick out number one and you are at everyone’s mercy; pick out number twenty and you could rule over everyone who has a lower number than you. The person with the higher number could “steal” the gift of anyone with a lower number. It’s that simple. The rest is left up to the imagination (and conscience) of the players.

Each gift must be wrapped (or concealed, somehow). It is always so much fun to see the originality of the beautifully wrapped “treasures”. I have seven brothers and sisters and each year we each try to outdo the other with our choices. Then the spouses and in-laws try to get into the act. So beware when you open up your White Elephant gift!

The kitchen and bathroom were always favorite “shopping” places for your White Elephant gifts. That explains all the food items and used bathroom toiletries in the middle of the White Elephant game.

One year, to my dismay and to the sheer delight of my youngest brother, I was dumbfounded to unwrap a beautifully covered petrified chicken bone. He must’ve saved that bone from dinner weeks before. Suddenly the can of beans that I had wrapped just didn’t seem to be so funny anymore.

It wasn’t only about trying to be funny and shocking. So many wonderful gifts have been exchanged during our White Elephant games. Memories of many well-thought items will always warm my heart; a favorite book, complete with dog-eared pages; a framed family photo, an old teddy bear and even a soft, worn-out Yankee T-shirt. My son, finally allowed to play at the age of nine, touched my heart when he clumsily wrapped a cherished Matchbox car as one of his gifts. That was the year that I had a high number and desperately wanted to get it back for him.

White Elephant is such a wonderful way to turn off the TV, laugh with your family and just watch the smiling faces of all those people that you love. Young or old, everyone has a great time. My mother, the matriarch of the family, always seems to end up with the nicest White Elephant gifts. No chicken bones for her.

There are no scripture verses found that correspond to White Elephant. There are no doctrines taught in this story. The lesson here is that it’s all about family. We can enjoy each other’s company. We can put aside all of our differences and just laugh and be a part of something that is special. Every year our circle of family and friends that play this game gets bigger and bigger. And even when one member can’t make it to our house for Christmas Eve, they play at their own homes.

White Elephant is a silly game, yes. But its impact on our family has been that we have remained close despite setback and tragedies in our individual lives. It has given us the opportunity to let our hair down and just have fun. Why don’t you try it next Christmas? You won’t be sorry.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Suzanne R05/05/05
Your story brought back some happy memories of White Elephant parties with colleagues over a period of several years. Thanks for reminding me of those happy times! What a lovely 'feel-good' piece!
Deborah Porter 05/09/05
Hi Leticia. I just wanted to take a moment to encourage you by letting you know that your entry made it into the semi-finals for the Christmas Challenge and I can honestly say that all the semi-finalist ratings were very, very close. Although you didn't actually receive an award, you still did very well. With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)
Chris Miller05/13/05
Our family also does the White Elephant tradition. It's a lot of fun. I enjoyed your article.
Debbie OConnor05/24/05
Delightful! I've played White Elephant with my office, but it would be far more fun with family. LOVE the chicken bone! Your brother is very clever. Great story, well told.