Last Updated: December 21, 2017, 3:49 pm

White elephant gifts surprise guests


With the holiday season comes one of its most entertaining party traditions: the white elephant.

The white elephant gift is a familiar tradition in the U.S., and the history behind this strange practice is a rather interesting one.

According to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center,, the term white elephant came from Asian countries, where white elephants were considered holy but were extremely expensive to keep. The story is derived from the ancient kings of Siam (now Thailand). If a king was displeased with a subject, he would give a white elephant to the person in disfavor with the intent of causing the subject financial ruin.

The white elephant parties today have no intent to cause financial ruin, but only to have fun with good friends and silly gifts.

Jade Jensen, an undeclared freshman from St. George, said she received underwear packaged with toilet paper at one white elephant party. She said she usually brings something cheap and strange, such as Silly String. Jensen said she enjoys the silly gifts, but she usually likes to end up with something of value.

Kelsey Knell, a senior communication major from Lehi, said the fun gifts are always much better for entertainment purposes. She said the favorite gift she ever gave was Maxi Pad slippers. These slippers are made from three pads. One pad is used for the sole, while the other two are connected to the sole and come over the foot to complete the slipper. Apparently, they are extremely comfortable.

Strangely enough, the most memorable gift she ever received was a dirty towel that had been used all year from a basketball player.

Bill Wilkin, a junior communication major from St. George, agreed with Knell that the funny gifts are by far more entertaining. Wilkin said he opened a white elephant gift to find a product called Monkey Butt Powder. Monkey Butt Powder is a soothing powder designed to ease the itch from a sweaty butt and the rash associated with it.  He said the gift was taken away twice as participants selected their gifts.

Sam Perez, a senior communication major from Gallup, N.M., said the favorite gift he gave was a female blow-up doll that he managed to purchase for around $3.

Perez said he likes to receive funny gifts if they are particularly creative, but his favorite gift received so far was a big bag of gummy bears.

Stevie Vogel, a junior accounting major from St. George, said she once gave a horse harness and lead rope. Vogel said that one year she ended up with a pair of broken pliers for her gift. The following year, she brought the same broken pliers back as her gift, and for several years it became a tradition to bring back the pliers to see who would be the person burdened with them.

It seems everyone has fun laughing at the funny and useless gifts that show up at white elephant parties. However, no one wants to be the one holding the proverbial broken pliers.

Written for Dixie Sun News by Ian Crowe