Monday, December 8, 2008

How To Sabatoge A White Elephant Gift Exchange

Over the years I have become a connoisseur of White Elephant Gift Exchanges. (Hereafter referred to as "WEGE". And yes, it's pronounced like you're thinking.) Every time it's the same. For the entire 4 hours before the event I develop delusions that maybe - just maybe - this year I might win big. Maybe I will take home a Pillsbury Dough Boy carved out of Velveeta. Or maybe a jar candle that smells like "Jumpsuit Elvis". Or anything fiber optic. The anticipation makes my palms sweaty. But I never get the good stuff.

Know what I usually walk away with? CRAP. By "crap" I mean: 1) a stupid gift that's really a piece of land-fill fodder, 2) a stocking full of broken dreams.

Truthfully, WEGE brings out the worst in me. It's the gift stealing that upsets my delicate demeanor. If someone steals my gift I get this overwhelming desire to bludgeon them with a light-up, plastic molded Christ child from the tacky yard display up the street. That's right. Come up against me and I'll drop you like Santa down a chimney.

But not anymore.

You see, I have discovered that WEGE is not about the gifts. These days my goal is to sabotage the game.

Let's set the stage. All of your Sunday School class is gathered in some one's home for the festivities. Holiday sweaters and egg nog abound. People are enjoying themselves. Then it happens. A choleric woman wearing a Santa hat, too much blush and dangly miniature Nutcracker earrings stands. She calls for every one's attention. No one listens. She calls again. Same response. Suddenly, her smile dims, the veins in her neck bulge and she screams, "Merry Christmas!" with all the grace of Gene Simmons.

She announces it's time to begin the gift exchange. She's as jumpy as a junkie squirrel looking for a fix. The antics that will follow will twist her knickers something fierce.

Here are 5 ways to sabotage your next gift exchange. Let's hit the ground running, shall we?

1) Give away liquor. We all know that even mentioning alcohol in some church settings will get you blacklisted. So why not make everyone in the room uncomfortable right from the beginning? Chances are that though they may suspect you of bringing the Satan Water, there are at least 3 other couples they will suspect, too. One year my husband and I brought a 4 pack of wine coolers to a WEGE. But, to push the envelope, we removed one from the pack, leaving a note, "We owe you one." Then we signed the leader's name. Yes, yes we did.

2) Goldfish. Not the VBS snack. We're talking a live fish. In a plastic bag that you just purchased from the pet shop. Put the bag in a pretty box, add a container of fish food, and pray it doesn't die. Why a fish? Because a Golden Retriever is hard to wrap and has a tendency to pee.

3) Go Political. Did you know that not all Christians are Republicans? (gasp) Shocking, I know. Yet regardless of how you voted in the election there's always going to be someone who has a different point of view. So why not unload all your 2008 election paraphernalia? Bumper stickers, t-shirts, yard signs - both local and national. Throwing out phrases like "I voted NObama!" and "I can see Russia from my house!" will make everyone warm and cozy.

4) Is that my purse? This one is serious. I have done it but you've got to be slick. Take some one's purse, throw it in a gift bag, put it under the tree.

And speaking of family portraits...

5) The Christmas Photo. Know that Christmas letter you just got from your Sunday school teacher? The one with the dazzling photo and letter about leaning on God in the midst having irritable bowel syndrome? I say you take that photo, enlarge it to an 11x13 so it's good and grainy, roll it inside a wrapping paper tube, and slap on a bow.

I think I can say at least one of these suggestions would throw a wrench in your next gift exchange. I've done all of them, in one way or another, and it has been spectacular.

Sadly, I could only come up with 5 ways to derail a party. Surely there are more. Since you all are so funny I'll leave it up to you.

What is the worst gift you've given or received at a gift exchange? What gifts would stop you dead in your tracks?

49 comments:

Candace Jean July 16 said...

Oh the purse thing - I'm lovin' it!! It's way too early to laugh this hard. Gift on, Stacy!

Word verification: peehand (???) NO!!!

Jen said...

I'm not part of a white elephant this year but these ideas are fabulous!!! One year when I was in youth group I brought a big old container of grits, and I lived up north so noboday ate grits, the kid that got stuck with that was mad.

Raw Faith Real World said...

Most of the deliberately worst gifts I've given have involved really ugly statuary made of a) paper mache or b) plastic and have normally involved poultry of some sort... if it's from Tijuana even better... nothing says thoughtful gift like a giant plastic goose bank with bright flowers on the side and a really long neck. I will say that one of my friends is getting ready to have a foo foo women's Christmas thing with gift exchange and she decided to sneak in pms / menopause type gifts into the mix.

Matt @ The Church of No People said...

Stacy - thanks for coming over and commenting on my blog last week.

My wife's workplace has a Christmas party and white elephant exchange every year. All of her coworkers, save her boss are women. Our best gift we gave - a pregnancy test. It stole the show that year. Last year, we recieved a Christmas thong, rumored to have been used. That was pretty much the top of the pile.

Helen said...

I understand White Elephants. A couple of weeks ago on SCL, people were talking about "dirty Santas". Is that the same thing. No one will answer me. I am waaaaaaaaay over 21, so I am not too young to know....

Lisa P said...

Last year in our Marriage Matters small group, one couple wrapped up some pretty hideous lingerie. It was hilarious, and the guy was shouting out, "We are SO gonna love this!" but I think his wife was the color of Santa's hat! Good times.

Dog snob said...

I love it!! I can't wait for my next white elephant exchange :)

vanilla said...

Nothing I have ever given measures up to even the weakest of your efforts. Everyone needs a good laugh on Monday morning; and this is it. Happy gifting. From a

--Stodgy Old Codger

Beth said...

If you work in the medical field, there are always TONS of fun items with drugs names on them. Wouldn't Pastor So-and-So just LOVE a Viagra pen or a Cialis mug? I think so....

alicia said...

Totally bringing alcohol to the next gift exchange! Then I can *act* really upset if I just happen to get stuck with it. Oh darn.

Lauren said...

Ahhh, how I love WEGE time. The college group from the church we went to in college actually loved them so much that we did them all the time.

Best/worst gift I ever got was a coupon clipped out of a newspaper for something ridiculous, like $500 off a lawnmower $2000+.

Gift I'm most proud of bringing: 2 pack of Chuck Norris movies from the $5 DVD bin at WalMart. The guys were literally fighting over them.

Oh, and we went to a Newlywed WEGE our first Christmas, and everyone had to bring their tackiest wedding gift. While the party was indeed filled with hilarity, we somehow got stuck bringing our own gift home. I don't know how we got it in the first place, but no one would steal it from us.

Helen:
Yes, dirty Santa is pretty much like WEGE as far as the gift stealing goes, but WEGE hinges on deliberately awful gifts (minus the newbies who bring a nice gift, or the folks who tuck a $10 gift card for Barnes & Noble into their gift because they feel bad about how terrible their gift is). Our family actually plays Dirty Santa with gift cards every year, which is fun and saves tons of money on ridiculous gifts from Great Aunt So-n-So just for the sake of opening something from everyone.

sara said...

Some things I have come across is my years of white elephant gift exchanges:

- A McDonald's hamburger with a smily face punched out.

- A lobster, fresh from the tank at Hy-Vee.

- Bod Spray from Wal-Mart (that stuff stinks so bad...especially when you spray the entire bottle on someone...youth Christmas party memories...)

- A box of random stuff from around the house. He just walked through his house picking up old stuff he wanted to get rid of. An old shoe. An atheletic cup. Old magazines. A true "box o' crap."

- A potato wrapped in underwear.

Oh, the possibilities are endless. Thrift store purchases are also good - go find the most hideous dress you can and wrap it on up. Fabulous.

Just nobody bring Elf on a Shelf. (Go see stuffchristianslike!)

Helen said...

http://matteroffactsite.blogspot.com/

My friend Sherri is having a Cyber cookie exchange!
Send her some love!
Love,
Helen the Hungarian

Marie said...

You had me at the wine coolers. That is just too perfect. HA HA HA HA!

Darryl said...

As the SS teacher, I can say that after surviving the class party, I could probably use a drink or two . . . so bring on the wine!

Other ways to derail the exchange may include giving expired gift certificates, half-used bottles of cheap perfume/cologne, or a DVD collection of the past five church christmas pageants.

Curtis Honeycutt said...

A Brief History of White Elephant Gifts:

In Thialand and some other Asian countries, white elephants were historically regarded as holy beings. People believed that they would bring fertility, prosperity, and power. The death of such magnificent creatures spelled disaster. As such, the owners of such magnificent beings were required to pamper and serve the elephant with special foods, elaborate housing, and arrange for public access for those who may want to come worship it. Kings were usually the only ones who could afford the extensive upkeep of the beings. Royal White Elephants were some of the original pampered pets. Anything these elephants could have ever wanted or needed were provided in excess. The origin of the elephant gifts began when ancient kings became extremely displeased by an assistant and would make a gift of a white elephant to the assistant. At first, the gift appears as an extreme honor. However, as time goes by, its novelty wears off. The financial burden was sure to slowly cripple people of less than superior monetary means.

Shawna said...

The last WEGE we went to was several years ago now that I think of it. Hmmm.

Well anyway, it was at our worship pastor's home. Did I mention he lives in this beautiful home on a golf course? Well, it probably doesn't matter but still.

We did the normal exchange and usual theft of gifts - I too hate that part. We brought ear candles - poor schmuck who opened them couldn't shake them - no one was going to take them...probably ever!

Several of us, however, received strange little garden statues. None of them as cute as the Travelocity Gnomes. Since they didn't go with the decor of our own homes we decided to 're-gift' them. As we left we placed them strategically in the flower beds around the home - hidden from sight of course.

Maybe that's why that was our last WEGE. No, that can't be it.

Marni said...

I once got a small ice chest full of night crawlers. My husband was thrilled because he LOVES to go fishing and night crawlers make great bait. Me? Not so much because I had to put them in my fridge until he went fishing again...

I also once got a "can condom". You shroud your canned soda or beer in it and it keeps the beverage cool and the condensation from going everywhere. And when I opened it and the party was laughing hysterically, my then 7 year old was all, "What's a condom?" Fun times indeed...

teamstrand said...

So BFF, I am at Mayo Clinic waiting to go into my appointment and figured I'd print out your post to be my reading material while waiting...your whole blog printed twice. That's a lot of mayo printing! It's awesome. I got to just stand there saying, that's mine...mine...don't touch it...mine.

sam said...

so yeahhh.. i was supposed to be studyin for all my finals but i couldnt help myself.. i read this instead. thats hilarious!!! ive never done a WEGE.. but this makes me want to! in youth last year we had the "go to walmart with 5 bucks and gift some useless gift for some random person you pulled out of a hat." ...its just not the same. i cant believe u actually did all that stuff! you're my hero!

Miss Linda said...

If I had tea in my mouth I would have spit it out all over my laptop.
Gotta get a 4 pack on wine coolers!
WEGE ON!!

WV:roppic, when Astro the dog gets off topic

The Benge Family said...

Would it work to combine 2 of those items? My hubby is big into politics and we have a bunch of McCain stuff lying around. And a few years ago someone gave him a bottle of Johnny Walker as a Christmas present that is collecting dust. So would the liquor match with the unelected candidate material?

Ryan B said...

Well I got a statue of a person's hand once. That was interesting. My parents always bring candles so they are no fun. After reading this I'm sure going to spice up the next WEGE I'm at. Thanks for the ideas. (Evil grin)

wv: patio (why am I getting normal words today? That's no fun)

SpiritledWoman said...

A cloth duck (the decorated kind) toilet plunger cover. Yes, I am serious! I was the new kid on the block and evidently everyone else knew what it was!

Alison said...

I'm loving your ideas Stacy, but I have one for you as well.

Last year at our small group WEGE, I got a bag full of junk (snowman salt and pepper shakers, snowman oven mitts, a shoe-cleaning kit, etc.) Our friends basically cleaned out a shelf in a junk closet and dumped it in a bag. Then another set of friends gifted a white, holly-covered piggy bank (yes -in the shape of a pig).

Those of us that received these wonderful gifts decided to take the WEGE one step better....we secretly returned all the gifts to our friend's houses over the next month or two. The salt and pepper shakers randomly and mysteriously reappeared under my friend's pillows on their bed, and the oven mitts showed up in the desk drawer in their office.

The pig took on a life of its own. It was returned to the bushes in my neighbor's yard as yard art, back to the under-sink cabinet in a guest bathroom, then some other places, and is just waiting to move on to its next home!!

That's what the WEGE is really about....giving people's crap back to them without them knowing it! I can't believe you haven't tried this yet!

Alison said...

Here's a good one to make somebody mad:

Buy an "easy" button from Staples (or whoever it is), put it in a shoebox and proceed to wrap it triple or quaruple layer with duct tape. By the time they spend 10 minutes getting it open, they will hate you for enjoying the irony of the easy button. Good times.

Becky said...

weirdest WEGE present ever: dead mouse. yes... a real live (well not so live) dead mouse. definitely sabotaged the party just a little as someone had to go puke... hahaha.

Anonymous said...

At and office WEGE one year I gave a 3 foot plastic shepherd from a nativity set. After that whenever someone new was hired, they got the shepherd on their desk the first day to great them. Awesome!
josista

Megs said...

OMG - this is hysterical. i have not been able to stop thinking of people to forward this to!

Quick question that i'm desperate to have answered . . . WHERE is everyone getting the fun wv words?

Becca said...

Sunday School Teacher's Party: Brokeback Mountain DVD. 100% true story.

Julianna said...

These are great. We are doing this with my husband's family this year. Will definitely keep all these great ideas in mind. Good times!!

Tara and Kyle said...

A very sweet lady at the church I formerly worked at came home from her vacation in Panama City Beach, FL, with a lovely (and HUGE) conch(?) shell LAMP complete with a white, plastic crucifix on it that said "Panama City Beach, FL". That was my gift from her. Bless her heart!

That so got used in a White Elephant game one Christmas, and is still making the rounds here around town.

littlelovelies said...

we have gotten in separate gift exchanges: an old shower head, a strobe light, someone's grandmother's old white windbreaker jacket decorated with gold lame and poker cards (which played in quite well with a halloween costume where I dresses as an old lady gambler. Yes it was a party with at least two pastors in attendance). The jacket had chocolate chip cookies stuffed in the pockets. They were good.

We have in the past given: The Field Guide to Hand Weapons, Mariah Carey's movie Glitter and this year we are giving BodMad Bosy spray and a talking Jesus doll. Because the funniest gifts are the ones that aren't supposed to be.

Beth E. said...

Oh *gasp* my *wheeeeze* goodness...I hooted over #1!!! What a great idea. We're so doing that one this year! Hahahaha...

~teachmom~ said...

LOVED the political one and the purse snatching! AWESOME, Stacy! Thank you for the laughs!!!!

Also to say: I have not been involved in a W.E. for at least 14 years.....

anotherlisa said...

we've done the velvet painting of elvis (bought on the side of the road from *those* guys.
we've done the plastic pink flamingos for the yard.
in one class a book has circulated for years, and without fail, every couple who's received it has gotten pregnant before the next wege. it's a boring little 2nd rate novel, but after the juju of a pattern emerged, it became sacrosanct - whoever gets it, gets it. no stealing of the book. it can be "gifted" to someone else, but that tradition has only been successful 3x.

Katie said...

"Why a fish? Because a Golden Retriever is hard to wrap and has a tendency to pee."

hysterical!!

the worst (ahem, best) gif ti ever got from a WEGE was a footstool. a cheap, metal frame with cotton "seat" footstool. the matching chair broke, so the owner brought the stool. it looked like you could sit on it, but the frame was too lightweight and cheap. i hounded him for the chair, too. and fixed that puppy up. gotta love college!

my hubby and i usually go to the dollar store for our WEGE gifts. there's some awfully fantastic stuff for a buck (puke-green painted little ceramic pig anyone?). the tackier, the better. and we usually can pay for it by scrounging for change in the car.

i actually have a WEGE party in about a week. i may try for a dough-boy made out of velveeta.

wv: enutro - where babies live before becomin extrautro

Pam said...

Best gift - the ugly huge decorate spoon and fork, which circulated through a small group I was in for several Christmas's -- the challenge was to wrap them so someone would EVER pick them.

Worst -- one of my kids came home from a white elephant with a bag of (opened) stale marshmallows and a partly eaten (not by my kid) candy bar. Ewwwww

Rick the Polonian said...

Last year, everyone fought it out over a toilet seat.

They actually fought over it.

My uncle once threw in a horseshoe and a piece of leather. He owned horses and the horseshoe was no good anymore, of course.

This year I am putting in an electric version of hot potato that randomly shocks the *%!$ out of you. Fun.

Kammy said...

Last year my youth group had a WEGE at the Christmas party and I made up a fancy little box complete with a very used toothbrush, an empty, crusty tube of toothpaste, a little thing of floss that I pulled the floss out of and tangled up, and the piece'd'resistance: one of my old baby teeth! I think I picked the grossed one out of my little toothfairy jar and put it in a little box so it wouldn't be lost in the big box of all the other stuff. No one knew it was me who put that gift in and no one suspected it was me, people seem to think of me as the nice girl.

I'm definitely going to try and get a cheap feeder fish to wrap up and put in the WEGE on Saturday or I might wrap up this absolutely down-right hideously ugly red jacket and skirt straight from the neighbourhood 80's Avon lady.

Sarah said...

Someone once gave my brother a tacky safari-themed lamp for Christmas--guess what was on it. Yep, a WHITE ELEPHANT. Guess what we gave away the next year.

JustMarian said...

There is definitely a wedding dress that has been exchanged at my office more than once.

On the "go political" note: I work for a conservative organization and someone totally brought a Barack Obama tshirt. It was a big hit!

ValMo said...

I wish I'd had seen this vital information before last Friday. *SIGH* But there were some good things exchanged at our party. I took the, um, high road(?) and actually bought something nice for it - and ended up with it. I'm giving it away as a Christmas present, so I guess it worked out. Anyway, I'm much older and wiser now and will have some ammo for next year!

Anonymous said...

At a WEGE at church for college students, one of the guys visited another part of church where a "Dinner in Bethlehem" event was taking place (complete with live animals) and scooped up a bag of donkey poo as his gift. The recipient was less than amused, but all of the other guys were in awe.
-J.D.

stanford said...

I laughed at each of these.

Great ideas.

lingerie and Brokeback mountain rank too.

i think I am going to try one of these.

John said...

I would like to share a tip I just found about a discount gift card exchange called abcgiftcards.com . You can buy sell and trade gift cards at discounted prices from all National retailers.

Susan said...

I LOVE the liquor one! I'm gonna use my discount gift cards that I buy (www.SellMyCard.info) and buy some for the next party. Can't wait!

Anonymous said...

Back when I was a lot younger and dumber I "borrowed" a stop sign from a street just being constructed (so it wouldn't actually endanger anyone), wrapped it up, and walked in with it. Everyone wanted it.

vanilla said...

Revisiting this six years after the fact reminds me of all the reasons I hate you for caving to other media.