Have You Ever Wondered Why We Call Them ‘White Elephant Gifts’?

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‘Tis the season for holiday shopping and if you’ve got Christmas parties to attend, you’ll likely be asked to bring a White Elephant Gift but Have You Ever Wondered Why We Call Them ‘White Elephant Gifts’?

The reason is actually quite interesting and is one a recent Reddit thread started talking about…

In case you haven’t heard of a white elephant gift (also known as a dirty Santa) it is a party game where amusing, impractical gifts are exchanged among people at a gathering or party.

Take this hamburger phone as an example. Practical? No. Awesome? Yes.


Traditionally, white elephant gifts are inexpensive, fun and quirky gifts that bring a smile to someone’s face rather than being an expensive, overly sought after gift.

So, where did this all become a thing?

Well, according to legend, back in the 1800’s the King of Siam (which is now Thailand) would gift rare albino elephants to those who displeased him in hopes that the upkeep costs would financially ruin them.

Woah! Pretty dark stuff, right?


As the centuries have progressed, it turned into more of a game where people would buy inexpensive items or find something strange from their home to bring to play a party game where gifts are passed around the room and exchanged.

So, the next time you are participating in a White Elephant gift exchange, you might start thinking about where it all originated but don’t let it get you down. It’s all fun and games now just as long as nobody gifts you a rare albino elephant. HA.


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