White Elephant Themes

In the most common and basic version of the game where there are no White Elephant gift themes guests can bring any type of items they want to the party. If we look at the origins of the game, it’s clear that a white elephant gift was originally meant to be a present that’s burdensome, unwanted or no longer needed, which later evolved into gifts that are funny, GAG, and down right ridiculous.

Nowadays, if there are no themes set, most common type of gifts are novelty items or even something everyone would enjoy, something useful with a twist of humor in it, because after all, the Christmas party is all about laughter and fun and noting is more entertaining than watching a group of people burst in laughter when a new gift is opened!

There are times however, when it would be a good idea to agree in the rules to use a gift theme.

What is White Elephant gift theme?

Simply put, it’s a predetermined category that everyone must stick to when buying their gift exchange presents and there are unlimited options when it comes to these themes, but here are some of the most common ones that will give you an idea:


If your group loves to read, books would make a great white elephant theme. Obviously there are a lot of GAG books or even good ones with funny titles that you could pick from, but you could even decide to go into specific genre and set the theme to “Novels only” or “Science books” or anything at all.

Sometimes the theme can be “an obscure book that no one has heard of”, or a book with at least X number of pages with the precondition that everyone must read the book they end up with. Overall there can be a lot of fun deciding the theme with books because there are so many options.


Some people are very handy at making things themselves. If this is true for your group, setting a white elephant gift theme to Do It Yourself type presents would be a good idea.

Since the variety would be quite large, it’s also possible to indicate a sub category which would depend on the skill set of the group:

Are ladies with crocheting skills laying the game? How about crochet peace featuring a funny quote or an image of something inappropriate, like reindeer mating?

Does everyone enjoy wine in the group? Why not set the theme to relabeled bottles of wine? basically what you would do, is buy a bottle of wine and replace the label on it with something funny.

Does everyone have artistic skill or lack there of? How about a framed sketch of the bosses caricature? Another fun one is a photoshopped picture of you in some ridiculous setting, printed and framed.

Decorating a Christmas tree is something lot of people enjoy. Self made funny decorations can be a good white elephant present and bring a smile on person receiving it for years to come.

Edible Treats

Another great theme is edible treats. The most common one is baked cookies, muffins or cupcakes or even full cakes that have been decorated with funny imagery or writings. The best part is, you could make a horrible looking treats that actually taste great.

Some examples would be: cookies shaped as funny objects, or cookies, muffins and cupcakes with funny decorations or inappropriate words written on them. Turd shaped brownies and anything else you may think of. Please make sure your group has a good sense of humor for these.


A common white elephant theme is to have everyone bring a gift they received that they do not want or need. This is a great theme for getting rid of unwanted items. The quote: “One mans trash is another mans treasure” comes to mind instantly.

Re-gift themed parties are usually thrown after Christmas, sometimes during the New Years party.

Frugal Elephant

Want to go easy on everyone’s wallet? Penny Pincher Santa, also known as Frugal Elephant is a way to go. The idea is to have everyone spend $5 on a gift and try and find the best gift possible for only five dollars. You might think it’s impossible to buy any good white elephant gift for $5, but you will be surprised how many great ideas there are online.

“Dollar Santa” is another variation where everyone bring a gift purchased at the dollar store.

Ugly Sweaters

Nothing beats wearing an ugly sweater to the white elephant gift exchange party, but it also makes a great white elephant gift theme. Everyone buys and brings an ugly sweater.

In other variations people bring ugly socks, t-shirts or any other article of clothing. They can be equally fun to unwrap and wear.

And of course the list does not stop there. Use your imagination and pick the theme to be something unique and fitting for your friends, family or work group.

Here’s what Harry wrote:

“I work at a construction company. There’s about 15 of us in our group and we throw an elephant party every year. One year we had a theme where everyone would bring a toilet plunger with a funny quote etched on the wooden handle. To this day it’s one of my most cherished possessions. It now sits in our living room like a trophy and is not only a great conversation starter, but the look on the faces of people who see it the first time is simply priceless.

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White Elephant Drinks

Here are couple of white elephant coctail ideas for your party. For more delicious drink recipes click here.


Ingredients: Light Rum, Milk, Egg, Syrup

Description: Mix egg milk and syrup. Add light rum and do another round of mixing with a whisk. The drink is ready when it has smooth consistency. You may want to heat the nog for richer taste.

Wild Elephant

Ingredients: Light Rum, Kahlua, Chocolate Sauce, Milk, Cherry

Description: Combine chocolate sauce, milk and kahlua for this delightful white elephant treat. Add light rum generously and garnish it with a sweet red cherry on top.

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