History Of The White Elephant Gift Exchange

If you're looking for a fun way to exchange gifts with friends, family or work colleagues this Christmas season consider a White Elephant Gift Exchange. If you're scratching your head wondering what the heck a White Elephant Gift Exchange is, well wonder no longer. To give you a better understanding of what exactly it is, let's take a look at the origin and see exactly how it came about. You maybe thinking that because you've never heard of this popular Christmas gift exchange that it's something new and upcoming, but really it's been around since the 1600's. It's changed throughout the years, but the main idea has stayed the same.

Origins Of The Name

It started back in Siam, known to us now as Thailand. Kings of Siam would give their advisors, who they found to be irritating and somewhat of a pain to them, expensive and useless gifts. These gifts would be a burden to the recipient and this would please the king to watch the receiver struggle with the gift. Are you wondering what the kings gift could possibly be? It was a White Elephant, of course, that was pricey to take care of and because the gift was from royalty the endowment couldn't simply be given away, that would be considered an insult. So instead, the lucky receiver of such a gift would be stuck with the burden, all while keeping the king secretly entertained.

You might be thinking that you have no interest in owning a large animal that is costly to take care of, but not to worry, a White Elephant Exchange has evolved slightly for this day and age. Instead, people normally exchange inexpensive gifts that are considered more like gag gifts, definitely not things that people have been waiting to unwrap all year long. They are gifts that are not sought after, but they will definitely bring some laughter to your Christmas party this year.

How It Became Popular

To many it is surprising that a White Elephant Exchange has so much history behind it, and it wasn't just someone saying they wanted to come up with a new way to share Christmas gifts and then the White Elephant Exchange was born.

Now that we've uncovered a bit about the history of the White Elephant Exchange and the earliest accounts of how it came about, we can take a look at how it made it's way from Thailand all the way to the Western world. The earliest report of a White Elephant in the Western world dates all the way back to the late 19th century, in England, and a little bit later in the United States, the beginning of the 20th century.

The White Elephant was first introduced to England when a traveling White Elephant made it's way all the way from Thailand and was to be displayed for everyone to see this highly anticipated creature. People expected to see an elephant white in color and were very disappointed when they met Toung Taloung, the White Elephant, and saw that his skin was more of a pinkish color.

After the disappointment in England, Toung Taloung was shipped over to the United States to see if the White Elephant was better received there. Alas, they were no more impressed and the White Elephant was seen as a useless animal to the circus and quite a burden to look after. As time went on the White Elephant stuck with people in the United States and churches would organize White Elephant Exchanges as a way to raise money. People would donate their unwanted items to the church and the proceeds from these unwanted objects would go towards worthy causes.

Tradition These Days

Today, the White Elephant Exchange has evolved into a very popular Christmas gift giving tradition, that is enjoyed amongst friends, families, and work colleagues. The now popular White Elephant Gift Exchange has evolved into an amazingly fun way to share unwanted gifts with people. The White Elephant Exchange may have started off on a small scale, but it is now enjoyed amongst countless people around the Christmas season.

Now that you're familiar with the background of a White Elephant Exchange, it maybe fun to share the history at your next White Elephant Party. See how many people actually know how this fun Christmas tradition came about, they may find it interesting to hear about the history themselves and to know that the tradition dates back as far as it does. Maybe even incorporate the history of the White Elephant Exchange into a fun guessing game. You could read aloud a few different options of where the game originated and see how many people guess the right one. You'd be surprised to see just how many people don't guess the correct history of the White Elephant Exchange and it'll be tons of fun.