HOLIDAYS: Giving as a Sport

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    Ice scrapers

    Wrapped in the heat of my electric blanket when the temperature drops, I have proof of the potentially wonderful nature of the White Elephant Gift Exchange.

    The fuzzy brown blanket that wards off the cold represents my spoils from a White Elephant party with several friends last Christmas, one I delightedly walked away from while one of my friends—a non-drinker—grumbled all the way home with a fancy new wine rack in his possession. It has collected plenty of dust since.

    The White Elephant is not always a win-win, see above, but it’s a great way to torment friends and family for a few hours in the holiday season. Or give them some joy, whatever. I ended up with two Denver Nuggets-Los Angeles Lakers tickets and a parking pass two years ago and that definitely rated on the joy meter.

    Come to think of it, I’ve been pretty lucky lately in this game, which goes like this:

    Each person or couple brings a wrapped gift—of a predetermined dollar value or type—then selects a number out of a hat to determine the picking order. Unlucky picker No. 1 gets to select and open the first present for all to admire—secretly or otherwise, depending on your poker face—then No. 2 has the option of stealing the first gift from No. 1 or opening a fresh one. And so on.

    Each item typically can be stolen twice and retired on the third steal, with the last person to steal it coming away with the prize. The game continues until everybody who brought a present ends up with one. If you want real intrigue, leave all the presents wrapped and wait for the surprise at the end. Plenty of shaking allowed!

    Originally, the White Elephant exchange meant getting rid of useless items nobody wants. If you go that rout, it’s the perfect chance to jettison that unwanted ice scraper, novelty snowman or the daily desktop calendar featuring Cathy’s latest office anxiety that you might have received from a lazy blanketSecret Santa. Just try to dust it off and wrap it in new paper at least.

    If the party is new purchases, try to find something at least moderately interesting to the most people, I beg of you.

    It doesn’t get more useful for cold Colorado nights than a toasty electric blanket. Good luck finding yours!