White Elephant or Yankee Swap? What Do You Call Your Gift Exchange

posted by Joe C - 

Grumpy Joe participated in a Christmas gift exchange with his friends over the weekend. No one could settle on the name: Yankee Swap, Nasty Christmas, or Dirty Santa. Ultimately they settled on White Elephant. And there's good reason for the disagreement. Apparently the title of the gift exchange varies depending on the region.

For the uninitiated, a White Elephant party is one where each participant brings a gift of an agreed value. The gifts anonymously go in a pile and players determine the order of selection. Everyone picks a gift. After all players have had a turn, the first player gets a chance to swap the gift he or she is holding for any other opened gift. Anyone who’s gift is stolen may steal from someone else (as long as that person hasn’t been stolen from yet). When someone declines to steal a gift, the game comes to an end. 

Follow that? Maybe the people at Dunder Mifflin can explain better:

 


Now in the clip, like at Joe's party, there was a hot debate over the name of this exchange. Turns out the name of the game varies across the nation. Yankee Swap, the name Michael Scott uses, comes from New England. Makes sense. Dirty Santa is more of a southern United States thing. Nasty Christmas and White Elephant seem to be more universal terms. According to WhiteElephantRules.com, the origin comes from 19th century Siam: If you wanted to ruin someone in Siam in the old days, you gave them a white elephant (or so the story goes). The gift conferred great honor, but was impractical to maintain.

Ever participate in one of these gift exchanges? What do you call it?


Oh BTW, Joe won himself a Squatty Potty after stealing it from his friend. A much better choice than the wedge of cheese shaped beer koozie or tin of danish cookies.

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