the sacred elephant

We attended a white elephant party tonight that we have been going to for about twelve years or so now. Usually my husband and I come home with the cheesiest gifts that came to the party, disguised in pretty paper. Our past winners have been a single diaper, a container of gel that made some pretty crude noises when you stuck your finger in it, and an extreme close-up photo of one of the couples that also comes to the party annually (we actually have some devious plans for the photo for next year, like t-shirts, etc., even though the shot shows straight up their noses).

It was interesting to learn about the history of the "white elephant" tradition. Since white elephants were sacred in Asia, disgruntled kings and nobles would strategically give them to lesser nobles, who were obligated to maintain them, often to their bankruptcy. A fascinating way to punish someone, don't you think?

So, as you punish someone this holiday season with a useless, trivial white elephant gift, just remember to try to do it with love and kindness. And make sure the camera is zoomed in and angled right up your nose.

9 comments

LisAway | December 12, 2008 at 11:43 PM

I miss the funky weirdness of America!! I love white elephant exchanges! We used to do them in school.

In Poland you see little elephant figurines everwhere. It's considered good luck to have one in your home. But those kind don't eat as much as the real thing and therefore don't break the bank.

I love that you do this with your friends. Very fun.

Luann | December 13, 2008 at 6:07 AM

There have been times when I would have given just about anything to have ONE MORE diaper in the house and not have to run to the store. That's a treasure!

If you need any photoshop work done to that nose shot, maybe a little nostril enhancement, let me know. :)

Heather of the EO | December 13, 2008 at 7:24 AM

I love the white elephant exchanges. Especially when you get to "steal" from each other. I'm evil like that. My Uncle finds PURE pleasure in finding the weirdest thing to gift. I love it :)
But I promise I'll be nice and kind. (:

Longwisker | December 13, 2008 at 8:43 AM

Our old neighborhood used to have a party my parents went to. They passed around a darth vader phone for years and years. We got it once. I can't imagine its worth now (especially since it was in excellent condition because we all just put it in our closets to save for the next year). I love white elephants!

Heidi Ashworth | December 13, 2008 at 9:38 AM

My family has a white elephant exchange every New Years day. I am so going to do the photo thing--but I'm going to frame it--oh yah! Love it!

Mrs4444 | December 13, 2008 at 7:23 PM

Very interesting!

charrette | December 14, 2008 at 6:43 AM

I love, love, love white elephant parties! Favorite gives: A book of Elvis sightings, a case of SPAM, a pair of hermit crabs. Favorite GET: a voodoo doll kit.

Bring it on!

And thanks for the background history. Hopefully my white elephants have never driven anyone to bankruptcy!

Kazzy | December 14, 2008 at 7:10 AM

Voodoo doll kit? Heeelarious!

Juliana | December 14, 2008 at 9:53 PM

I did a white elephant exchange at my party last night. It was so much fun. We got a stuffed Intel man, which I totally love. I can't wait to do it again!