Monday, December 15, 2008

White Elephant

Would someone please tell me what "White Elephant" at Christmas time means? I THOUGHT I knew, after attending so many over the years, until last night when I participated in one.

I remember well the first White Elephant party I attended as a child. I was probably seven or eight. It was at Timber-Lee Christian Center in Wisconsin where we lived for about eight years. When we finally reached the pre-determined age, the adult staff let us kids join.
I remember what building at camp we had the party. I remember that there were some weird gifts. And I remember that although I really wanted to choose the big box, I actually chose the tiny gift (because some kind soul told me that "good things come in small packages", and also I didn't want to appear as greedy as I actually was, considering this was my debut). When I ripped off the paper, I was rewarded for my selflessness by finding a pantyhose "egg" holding a $10 bill. WOWZERS!! Ten whole dollars all for myself!!
Alas, it wasn't long before the rules of the W.E. were engaged, and someone stole it from me.
And after the party, Ellie Haroldson tried to help my mom by getting us kids all bundled up for the walk home. She held up my snowsuit and called me over to her, interrupting the twirling I was doing in my beautiful Christmas dress. "Hmp!" I thought, "How could she? An adult...interrupting a child's all important play time? The nerve!!" So, I looked over at her as she called, "Sarah, come get your snowsuit on", and said, "No." Well, Ellie Haroldson was a great, patient lady and didn't paddle my behind on the spot, as I deserved. But I assume that she did talk to my mom about it later. Because the very next morning, I found myself sitting on the edge of my mom and dad's waterbed dialing Ellie's home phone number. I was shaking so much that it was hard to get the numbers all dialed, but eventually I did and the phone rang...and rang...and rang. It seemed like an eternity before she finally answered. And I apologized for my behaviour the previous night. I asked her forgiveness, which she graciously gave. What a great and memorable lesson that was. Thanks, mom, for making me do that incredibly hard thing. And I actually believe now, as a mama myself, that it hurt you more than it hurt me.

Anyway, I was wondering about the general population's view of the White Elephant gift exchange. Not so much the part about the rules, as the gift part. After I get some feedback, I'll post my reason for asking.


committed to serve said...

The gift should be a silly thing nothing to nice , or maybe even something that you no longer want. Now I am gonna call you so I don't have to wait to hear the WHY

Jill said...

It continually amazes me what we remember as children. Wonderful to know that it made such a positive and lasting impact, but I'm afraid I had forgotten all about the incident until I read your story. White Elephants...they were supposed to bring special luck, so perhaps it developed when people knew they would really have to look to find somethng special in all those used give-away type gifts.

Linda Worden said...

I have the same question as it seems everybody defines White Elephant differently. I think it is supposed to be something you already have which still has value but no longer value to you. So I don't think a WE is something new you purchase for the gift exchange nor something that is so ratty it no longer is useful. Maybe Wikipedia has a definition but I haven't looked there for it. Thanks for the story. Those T-L parties were so much fun.