Why is it called a white elephant gift exchange?

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The term “white elephant” in “white elephant gift exchange” probably came from the tradition of the King of Siam (present-day Thailand) giving rare albino (white) elephants to anyone that displeased him. The idea was that the cost and time to take care of an elephant would ruin the life of the person receiving it. The white elephant was a sacred symbol in Siam, so letting it go or giving it away wasn’t usually a realistic option. While this explanation is believed by many to be the origin of the term, some doubt its authenticity.

White Elephant Gift Exchange from The Office
A gift exchange from The Office television show.

If you are unfamiliar with a white elephant gift exchange (aka Dirty Santa and Yankee Swap), it’s when a group of people get together and exchange gag/funny/impractical gifts. Over many rounds, people give and “steal” gifts from each other, until the last remaining gift lands on a final owner. There are tons of variations to this game, but you get the idea.

While there is some disagreement when the term was first used, one theory suggests that Ezra Cornell brought the term into mainstream culture in as early as 1828.

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  2. Many zoos will gladly accept your used Christmas tree to feed to its animals.
  3. Jingle Bells” was originally written for Thanksgiving.
  4. It’s a tradition to eat at KFC in Japan on Christmas.
  5. If you gave all the gifts from the “Twelve Days of Christmas” song to someone, you would have given 364 gifts.
INTERESTING VIDEO
INTERESTING REFERENCES
  1. RD.com – Here’s the Surprising History Behind the “White Elephant” Gift Swap 
  2. Wikipedia.org – White Elephant Gift Exchange
  3. TheFactFile.org – 99 Interesting Facts About Christmas

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