The (white) elephant in the room: what’s in the (gift) box?

Rocky Gao, Staff Writer

The white elephant gift exchange is a holiday game filled with chaos. Players all contribute gifts to a pile, taking turns randomly to either pick a gift from the pile, or steal one from someone who already chose. The uncertainty surrounding the tradition leads to unforgettable experiences, as was the case for juniors Helena Zhou and Aaron Do.

At last year’s swim team Christmas party, Zhou found herself with a huge gift-wrapped box at the end of an elephant exchange.

“I was very excited to unwrap it and find an amazing gift,” Zhou said, “but it turned out to be an ant farm filled with alive, swarming ants— which, I guess, was amazing in its own unique way.”

Still, Zhou made the best of a buggy situation.

“I ended up giving the ant farm to another friend who wanted it,” Zhou said. “I wasn’t disappointed or feeling anything like that because I was mostly just shocked with fear of the ants and in the end, the party was a fun experience and very memorable because of that.”

The same happy ending wasn’t in store for Do, who also had an eventful gift exchange. As a child, Do attended a Christmas party and participated in a white elephant gift exchange that would unfortunately haunt him to this day.

“It was from the other children at the party that I saw what made you cool: Beyblades,” Do said.

Do arrived at the party with an objective in mind, a mission that once completed, would fulfill his childhood ambition to gain popularity and prestige.

“Unlike these fellow ruffians at the party, I personally did not own a set of Beyblades,” Do said, “but I always tried my hand at getting them.”

Do had set his eyes on a large box wrapped in white paper. Upon closer inspection, he discovered with joy that inside the box, sat a brandnew set of Beyblades. Do sat impatiently for his chance to choose the box out of the pile.

“When it was my turn, I dashed towards the box and chose its goodies, grasping it in loving arms,” Do said.

Do gleefully acknowledged his fortunate circumstances, and felt a rush of triumph rush to his grinning face. With his mission completed, the only thing left to execute was the first spin of his Beyblade, which would mark his entry into a reputation filled with fame and power.

However, his brief euphoria was deviously shattered by the envy and greed of another party guest.

“Another child was after my treasure, and from my clenching hands my golden ticket to the chocolate factory was taken in an instance,” Do said. “I cried for 30 minutes straight, knowing that I would never be able to let it rip again the same way after this.”

Distraught and depressed, Do trudged through the rest of the party.

“This is still scarred into the back of my mind,” Do said.

For the future white elephant gift exchanges that are lurking behind winter break, it is important to understand that while we cannot control the gifts we end up with, we can choose to remain unbothered by unexpected disappointments and focus on what the holidays are really about.