Liven up your gift exchange by learning how to play white elephant gift exchange game! Visit for the white elephant rules. Game on!

How To Play White Elephant Gift Exchange

The game of White Elephant Gift Exchange is similar to that of Secret Santa, but it involves a more secretive and challenging plot. Even though it involves gift-giving, it is a great game to play anytime during the year, especially when it’s holiday time.

The essence of this game is that the players do not know what is inside their wrapped gifts. According to Wikipedia, this idea dates back to the time of kings in Thailand who would exchange white elephants to obnoxious courtiers. Even though a white elephant is seen as a prestigious gift, the cost of its maintenance surpassed its status by far, thus courtiers would end up spending lots of money in order to look after the animals.

If you haven’t played a variation of a white elephant game, do not fear! By following these easy steps you and your friends will be able to enjoy this game faster than you can say ‘white elephant’.

White Elephant Gift Exchange Requirements

First of all you’ll need to get a group of players together. suggests 6 – 20 people, but you can add as many as you want. Each person should bring a wrapped gift of any sort to the game, so it would be advisable for you to let them know about this game a few weeks in advance. Bear in mind that you should allocate a pricing limit to each person, in order to avoid unnecessary expenditure, as well as a time limit during the game: 3 – 4 minutes per person should suffice.

How to Play White Elephant Gift Exchange

  1. On the day of the game, let everyone place their gifts in the middle of a table of a room.
  2. Each player should then choose a gift from the pile. You can make rules if you wish, by numbering each gift and then letting players draw the numbers from a pool, or you can let each player randomly choose when it is their turn.
  3. Players will then unwrap the gifts they have chosen before it is another player’s turn.
  4. Upon the next player’s turn, he or she may steal an unwrapped gift from another player, or he or she may choose a new gift from the pile.
  5. The gift that you end up with is the gift that you have won.

White Elephant Video Tutorial

White Elephant Game Variations

Alternatively, you can set rules to ‘stealing’ and choosing new gifts. These rules are entirely up to you. For example, you can make the rule that a player may only steal twice during the game. In order to make the game more interesting, you can allocate the gifts into coloured groups and assign numbers to them as well. This can work well when there is a bigger group involved. For example, place three gifts in different colour boxes and number them 1 – 3. Let players draw a colour as well as a number from the pool. The player will then end up with, say, YELLOW – 1. That is the gift that he/she will end up with. To make it even more interesting, you can make the rule that players may only steal from the specific color group they drew.