Ultimate White Elephant!
December 2, 2015 6:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning this year's company holiday event with a White Elephant gift exchange included as part of the festivities. I’d like to encourage fun, unexpected items through an appropriately open-ended theme. Themes such as those suggested in this previous Ask MeFi comment are exactly what I’m looking for. Please help me come up with the Ultimate White Elephant theme for our snowflakey crew!

Our group is homogeneous in demographics: 20s and 30s, working in video games (i.e. saturated in media and tech and spending too much of our lives looking at screens), mostly but not exclusively male, but that’s about where the similarities end. In other words, we don’t all love the same category of things (gardening, sports, cooking, pets, travel, etc.) to fall back on, and what we do have in common can get incredibly specific and niche.

This previous Ask MeFi comment mentions a theme of “oversized things” and I love imagining the 10,000 star-stickers, giant gummy bear, and bobblehead doll gifts that were unwrapped that day. I will be grateful if the hivemind can help me generate the kind of theme ideas that encourage inventive, unexpected, thoughtful, or funny gifts that aren't too specific, restrictive, or inappropriate?

To clarify: I'm not looking for gift ideas, but inventive theme ideas to guide the gift-giving!
posted by Goblin Barbarian to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
My work does a white elephant exchange with a slight twist. You are supposed to bring a gift that represents yourself, and whomever picks your gift has to guess who gave it. The gift recipient gets three guesses who brought the gift, and they are encouraged to explain why they think it was that person. This occurs after drinking has started and is usually pretty funny to hear how well your co-workers think they know each other. We're a pretty tight knit group of 20-30 year old science people, but we also all have diverse tastes.
posted by lizjohn at 6:21 PM on December 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

How about just exchanging flash drives and have each person fill one with as much fun stuff as they can find? I know I'd enjoy getting a flash drive with a thousand new nature wallpapers and the first five seasons of Game of Thrones on it, for instance.
posted by irisclara at 6:50 PM on December 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Things that start with a specific letter
Things with holes
Things related to a specific material, e.g. wood, paper -- can be interpreted literally or figuratively

I love the "oversized things". I'm going to suggest that for our family's thing next year.
posted by quaking fajita at 7:22 PM on December 2, 2015

Thanks for the suggestions so far! lizjohn and irisclara, those are good ideas I can imagine working well for a different event/venue. quaking fajita, those ideas are definitely in line with what I'm asking for!

For clarification, I'm looking for suggestions on open-ended themes where the fun is in the creative and outrageous interpretations we bring and the stories they'll give us for later.

In a similar vein, we'll be playing Eat Poop You Cat as a party game with a similar goal of wacky, creative fun.
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 8:11 PM on December 2, 2015

Star Wars
Items that cost a specific price like 17.39 or some odd number
Cards (card games, fancy playing cards, tarot cards, greeting cards, note cards, etc.)
Things that fly
Remote control toys
Bigger than a breadbox
A "hoard" of anything
"As Seen On TV"
Dried food products (coffee, tea, jerky, fruit leather, spices, etc.)
Things that are monogrammed or personalized
Things that keep you warm
Tools (that's really a pretty open-ended category though)
Containers and things that hold other things
Purple things
Things named in Led Zeppelin songs
A plant you think the recipient could keep alive (this could get quite amusing)
A six-pack of anything. Anything that is packaged by sixes.

Is that more of what you're looking for?
posted by irisclara at 10:27 PM on December 2, 2015

Given that you're all tech professionals I would suggest the theme be "Building Physical Things" or something like that. I'm thinking woodworking, crafting, knitting, gluing. Anything which encourages you to go and build something physically real.

Then you can have fun when you all come back to work showing off what you've built.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:19 AM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Actually similar to oversize things, I really like (like in my life, not as a theme, which is why I'm also suggesting it as a theme) "Things which are the wrong size" like, tiny versions of big things or big versions of tiny things.

Alcohol miniatures, dollhouse furniture, enormous sunglasses, and so on.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:21 AM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

In the vein of the Physical Things suggestion: The Most Untechie Thing Possible.
posted by divabat at 9:23 AM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was in a white elephant once where the theme was "Things Containing Liquids" and we got a wide variety of different gifts.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:32 AM on December 3, 2015

This was super! I wound up modifying one of irisclara's suggestions that happened to be a really good one for our group. I marked best answers as one's I would like to do if I could do it over multiple times.

Thanks everyone for the suggestions!
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 9:53 AM on December 6, 2015

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