White Elephant Rules

How to Play White Elephant?

That really depends on how elaborate you want to make your game of White Elephant. You can play a very simple version where you just try to steal each other’s presents or you can add a whole lot of rules to make the game harder, but also more fun!

Cadeaux de l’Éléphant Blanc

The basics

  1. Decide on an amount you’re allowed to spend on your gift and pick a date for the celebration.
  2. Everyone brings one wrapped gift to the White Elephant gift exchange. Not sure what to get? Our gift finder is here to help.
  3. Sit in a way that everyone can see the gift pile properly.
  4. Decide in what order you will be picking your presents. You can do this based on age, from youngest to oldest for instance or in alphabetical order. You can also draw to decide. Write down numbers on paper. If there are 20 of you, write down numbers from 1 to 20 and put them into a hat. Then let everyone draw a number.
  5. Let the first person pick a gift and open it.
  6. The next player can then decide if they want to open another gift or steal the gift the person before has just opened. When a person gets their gift stolen this way they can do the same. They can either choose a new gift or steal a gift from someone else. But you are not allowed to steal your stolen present back immediately.
  7. After three swaps in a turn, the turn comes to end (otherwise the game could last forever).
  8. When everybody has had their turn, the first player can decide if they want to keep or swap the gift they are holding. If they decide to keep the gift they have, your White Elephant has finished. But if they steal a present, the game goes on until someone declines to steal a present.

White Elephant Rules

White Elephant Variations

There are loads of variations to the above rules. Here are some extra rules you could use:

  • Three steals and you’re out – If you get stolen from three times, you’re out of the game and you get to keep the present you’re holding.
  • No unwrapping gifts until the end of the game – This will add some mystery and a whole lot of laughter to the game.
  • Add a theme – Add a theme to the White Elephant. Everyone then has to buy a gift that fits the theme. Think Christmas themed gifts, but also a type of gifts such as coffee table books, board games, decorations, etc. Re-gifts (an unwanted item you already have) are also a possible theme.
  • Mix up your White Elephant Exchange with a Secret Santa – In this variation you draw names and get a gift for the assigned person, but once everyone has unwrapped their presents you’re allowed to steal from each other. You can use our Online Secret Santa Organizer for this.
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