How to Play White Elephant

How does one play white Elephant?

That really depends on how elaborate you want to make it. You can play a very simple version in which you just try to steal each other’s presents or you can add a whole lot of rules which will make the game harder, but also more fun!

How to Play White Elephant

The basics

  1. Decide on an amount you’re allowed to spend on your gift and pick a date for the celebration.
  2. Everyone brings one wrapped gift to the celebration.
  3. Sit in a circle or in a way that everyone can see the gift pile properly.
  4. Decide in what order you will be picking your presents. You can do this based on age, from youngest to oldest for instance or in alphabetical order. Whatever you want. You can also let a draw decide. Write down numbers on paper. If there’s twenty of you write down write down numbers from one to twenty and put them into a hat. Then let everyone draw a number.
  5. Let the first person pick a gift and open it.
  6. The next player can then decide if he/she wants to open another gift or steel the gift the person before him has just opened. When a person gets their gift stolen in this way they can do the same. They can either choose a new gift or steal a gift from someone else. It’s not allowed to immediately steal your stolen present back.
  7. After three swaps in a turn, the turn comes to end (otherwise the game could last forever).
  8. When everybody has had their turn, the first player can decide if he/she wants to keep or swap the gift he/she is holding. If they decide to keep the gift they have, the game is over. If they do steal a present, the game goes on until someone declines to steal a present.

White Elephant Variations

There are loads of variations to the above rules. Here are some extra rules you could use:

  • Three steals and you’re out – If you get stolen from three times, you’re out of the game and you get to keep the present you’re holding.
  • No unwrapping gifts until the end of the game – This will add some mystery and a whole lot of laughter to the game.
  • Mix you’re White Elephant Exchange up with a Secret Santa – In this variation you draw names and get a gift for the assigned person, but once everyone has unwrapped their presents you’re allowed to steal from each other. You can use an online Secret Santa Organizer for this.
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