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A Holiday Custom I Just Do Not Like

12 December 2008

White elephant gift exchanges.

Heck, just look at some of the terrible other names for this unpleasant custom: Selfish Santa, Nasty Christmas, Dirty Santa — yuck!

Receiving a gift should be a pleasant experience. You should be able to look forward to the receipt, and, even if it isn’t quite to your taste, you shouldn’t expect to receive trash, for goodness’ sake! Or, if what you receive isn’t trash, then you feel sad because you know someone else farther down the line is going to steal that nice little gift from you.

I’ve been part of a few white elephant exchanges, and I have never really enjoyed them. (Particularly the first time, when I didn’t quite understand how it worked, and was disappointed when I ended up with some crappy Jean Naté cologne, after holding a cute set of coasters for a few minutes before it was snatched away from my hands by some nasty chuckling little person who had picked a higher number than me.)

The girls are participating in a white elephant exchange this afternoon, and while they may think it’s fun, I think it’s a terrible warping of a lovely season.

Because I wouldn’t want to end on such a sour note, here is a picture of one of the ornaments that we’ve made and given as gifts over the past ten years:

Angel ornaments

We have twelve of these little angels hanging from the boughs of our Christmas tree (and you can be sure the presents they’re holding aren’t white elephant junk!)

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. 12 December 2008 12:42 pm

    I’m with you on this point. I loathe white elephant exchanges as well as the “pollyanna” swaps. I find those types of things mean spirited, and in the non-white-elephant versions (in which people bring things that they think are good gifts), it seems that there’s always someone whose gift is obviously–and publicly–unwanted. Just too mean for my tastes.

  2. 13 December 2008 10:09 am

    I try and steer clear of any type of secret Santa swap. I really hate the white elephant ones (can’t remember what we call them where I live) but I have found with the other ones I usually ended up getting something I didn’t need and didn’t have the money to participate anyway. Of course, my knitting friends are having a gift exchange and that is different – it’s knitting related. 🙂

  3. Cateling permalink
    13 December 2008 3:47 pm

    I’m with ya, sister. I always participate in the straight-up Secret Santa exchanges at the office (because you’re “not a team player” if you choose not to) and they’re pretty hit-and- miss. Last time, I got a sack full of dishcloth cotton from someone who didn’t know what to get me. Best gift ever!!

  4. Cateling permalink
    13 December 2008 4:43 pm

    This is a sad-but-true story about a white elephant gift party.
    http://derfwadmanor.blogspot.com/2007/12/white-elephant.html

  5. Peaceable Imperatrix permalink*
    14 December 2008 7:46 am

    Oh, Cate, what a story! (But I wonder why she didn’t just take the gift home?

  6. 14 December 2008 3:40 pm

    That’s one custom that hasn’t made its way this side of the pond yet, as far as I know. i’ve never heard of it, anyway.

    Your angels are lovely.

  7. Three of Four permalink
    15 December 2008 8:35 am

    Cateling, that is such a sad story! I think back to all the crazy hand-made gifts I gave teachers as a kid. I’d be mortified to think any of those men and women were so cruel as to publicly mock them. This is just one more reason for me to cop out and buy a gift card for the kids’ teachers this year. Feels unoriginal and rather generic, but at least it will get used.
    Imperatrix, are white elephant exchanges common in your neck of the woods? I’ve never really been to one (and I’m so glad of it).

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