As the holiday season approaches, don’t be surprised to find yourself involved in a white elephant gift exchange.
The popular gift-giving activity revolves around trading joke and novelty items with friends and family, and often results in laughs, devious trading tactics and the occasional hurt feelings. The phrase “white elephant” is taken from Southeast Asian culture.
Bustle.com explains how in Buddhist mythology, Buddha's mother received a lotus flower from a white elephant the night she gave birth. Since the lotus flower is a symbol of purity and knowledge, the white elephant became a symbol of holiness, and of Buddha himself.
According to The Phrase Finder, “white elephant” refers to a legend involving a monarch who kept a menagerie of albino elephants, which were considered holy. The monarch’s subjects revered the elephants and worshipped them.
When a subordinate offended the monarch, they would have a white elephant bestowed upon them. While this gift would initially seem like a great honor, it quickly became a burden due to the sheer number of hoops the elephant’s owner would be forced to jump through.
According to Bustle, the monarch would require white elephant owners to feed their elephant immense quantities of special foods, and their owners often found their private lives interrupted by those looking to pray to their god through the elephant.
Fortunately, today’s white elephant exchanges are considerably less daunting. The practice involves purchasing inexpensive, humorous gifts, which are then exchanged within a group. Some versions of the game allow for opened gifts to be swapped or stolen, introducing an element of strategy to the game.
If you can’t think of a good gift for an upcoming company or family gift exchange, here are some products ideal for getting a good laugh out of your friends.
A jumbo Toblerone
A Mullet on the Go headband
This headband provides an instant influx of business in the front, party in the back. Spice up any gathering with this instant ’do. See it here.
Emergency Horse sound speakers
If your horse is out to pasture and you don’t have any coconuts nearby, this speaker will provide a snort, whinny, gallop and the ever-popular neigh at the press of a button. See it here.
A Nicholas Cage cardboard cutout mask
Whether you love the always-zany character actor or are just looking to terrify a friend, a Nicholas Cage mask would make for a great surprise. For double the fun, consider throwing a John Travolta mask into the mix to re-create what AV Club calls “the ultimate John Woo experience.” See it here.
A 3-gallon tub of Dippin’ Dots
Dippin’ Dots were invented by Curt Jones in 1988, and are created by flash-freezing drops of ice cream mix in liquid nitrogen. Chances are one of your co-workers will be pleasantly surprised by this sweet treat, unless their name is Sean Spicer. See it here.
Live miniature Madagascar hissing cockroaches
In case you don’t have any friends to share your Dippin’ Dots with, these little guys will do in a pinch. The cockroaches will grow up to 1.5 inches in length, and can live up to four years. Unfortunately, they cannot be shipped to Tennessee or Florida, according to the store description. See them here.
Glow in the dark toilet paper
Glow in the dark toilet paper is perfect for anyone who needs to use the restroom late at night, or can’t find extra toilet paper in a dark storage room. See it here.
Hand finger puppets
Recreate a genuinely frightening scene from Marvel’s “Doctor Strange” and boggle the minds of others with these hand finger puppets. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any hand finger puppets for your finger puppets, so one set will have to do. See them here.
A plush white elephant
Give a meta gift in the form of a cuddly 10-inch plush elephant from TOLLION. Thankfully, the recipient won’t be ruined by this little guy. See it here.