The White Elephant party is a funny little tradition that is also sometimes referred to as a Yankee Swap or Dirty Santa party. In case you live under a rock, hate parties, or forgot about what socialization used to look like before Covid, let me refresh your memory.
Before the event, every party attendee finds a weird, ridiculous, or downright funny item to bring as a gift. It has to be wrapped! At the party, everyone places their gifts in the spot designated by the host, and everybody sits in a circle. The host counts the number of participants and writes each number on a piece of paper. The partygoers draw a number, and then the fun begins.
The person who drew the number 1 goes first and picks a present at random from the pile. It gets opened in front of the crowd for everyone’s amusement. The person who drew the number 2 goes next, and he or she can either steal the first person’s present or pick a new one from the pile. Each person thereafter can either steal an already opened present or unwrap a new one.
Typically, a white elephant present can only be stolen a certain number of times (usually two or three) before it’s “dead” and can’t be taken anymore. When a person’s present is stolen by another, he or she then gets to steal from someone else or unwrap a new present. Then the unwrapping continues in numerical order.
After the person with the highest number goes, the person who drew first can then swap his or her gift for another eligible gift or keep what he or she has. And that’s it!
Best Homemade White Elephant Gift Ideas
Here are my favorite homemade gag gifts. They are funny, unexpected, and very inexpensive. You are sure to cause a buzz at your party with any of these DIY white elephant gift ideas.
Shave with Me Barbie
Finally, a version of Barbie that’s relatable! This grossly funny gift is a cinch to make and requires very little of your precious time. Unless you have a kid with a dark-haired doll at home that you’re willing to cut a little hair from, be sure t0 purchase a doll with dark hair.
- Knock-off Barbie doll (new in box)
- Disposable razor
- Glue stick
- Computer, printer, paper, and tape/glue (for label)
1. Remove the doll from the box. Don’t throw the box away!
2. Cut short pieces of hair from the doll’s head (or from another doll, if yours has light hair).
3. Rub a glue stick over the doll’s legs and immediately sprinkle the little hair pieces over the top. Press to adhere the hair, and allow the glue to dry.
4. Repeat Step 3 with the doll’s armpits.
5. Put the doll back in the box, along with a disposable razor.
6. Design and print a label that says, “Shave with Me Barbie.” Cut the label out and glue or tape it to the box, covering the original logo if possible.
You never know what life will throw at you! But thankfully, you can make sure the recipient of your gift is prepared for anything with this wacky collection of dollar store finds.
- A tin box, empty emergency kit, or other container
- Any (or all) of the following:
- Pregnancy test
- Marijuana test
- Breath mints
- Hemorrhoid cream
- Denture adhesive
- Libido booster
- Athlete’s foot medicine
- Energy boost drink
- Eye drops
- Disposable razor
- Hair dye or wig
- A permanent marker or computer, printer, and glue/tape (for label)
1. Put everything in the box.
2. Label it “Emergency Kit” by either writing it on the box in permanent marker or by creating, printing, and affixing a label.
Who doesn’t love a gift card? It’s a great way to give someone a present without having to agonize over what they might like. And when you’re the recipient of a gift card, you get to buy something you know you need or want without spending any of your own money! Win-win. Of course, it’s less of a win when the gift cards can’t really buy you anything, but hey. It’s the thought that counts, right?
- Gift cards
- Permanent marker
1. Wrap together several gift cards with very small amounts on them—$1.47, $0.83, etc. Use a permanent marker to write the remaining balance on each card (and crossing out the original amount, if it says).
2. Include a note that says, “Enjoy a shopping spree on me!”
1. Wrap several gift cards together, but only include one with money on it (and make sure it’s enough to actually buy something). The rest should have a zero balance.
2. Include a note that says, “Only one of these cards has any money on it. Enjoy figuring out which one!”
If you’re a sucker for very literal humor, why not bring an actual white elephant to your White Elephant party? There are lots of ways you can do that, but the towel animal version is my personal favorite. Plus it has the added bonus that in the end, the recipient goes home with a very practical gift—a bath towel and a hand towel! Of course, they’ll have to kill your little elephant to use them, but…
- 1 small, white bath towel
- 1 white hand towel
- 1 pipe cleaner
- 2 googly eyes
- Hot glue gun
- Safety pins (optional)
1. Lay the bath towel out on a flat surface.
2. Fold each of the longer ends of the towel over a few inches toward the center of the towel.
3. Roll each of the shorter ends of the towel towards each other until the whole thing resembles a scroll.
4. Fold the towel in half, with the rolls facing outwards, and stand it up on your flat surface so that the place where the two rolls meet runs along the top.
5. Take the hand towel and hang it on a hook somewhere in your house. Using both hands, simultaneously roll both ends away from you and in towards the middle of the towel.
Lay the rolled hand towel on a flat surface with the rolls facing up. Place a pipe cleaner between the two rolls.
7. Flip the towel over. At the wider end, fold down the edge of the towel in the middle to create a flat surface for the face.
8. Pick up the hand towel, tightly pinching the rolls underneath keep everything together.
9. Place the head on top of the body.
10. While gently holding the head on top of the body with one hand, use the other hand to grab the corners of the towel that are hanging down behind the body, and pull them towards you and down a bit to shape the ears.
11. Smooth out the face so there are no wrinkles. Use a hot glue gun to attach googly eyes to the face, and bend the trunk (which has the pipe cleaner in it) into your desired position.
12. If you would like to make your towel elephant more secure for transporting it, use safety pins in the back to hold it together.
Christmas Hat Nose Warmer
If you do a Google image search for “nose warmer,” you’ll discover a plethora of crocheted beauties designed to protect your little nose from the cold winter weather. I can’t tell if anyone wears these things seriously or not, but to me they just scream “gag gift.” And while I’m willing to put a fair amount of work into a silly gift, I’m not quite willing to go to the effort of crocheting something (especially since I don’t actually know how to crochet).
In a wonderful coincidence, I discovered a DIY for a mini hat Christmas ornament right around the same time that I discovered nose warmers, and a ridiculous idea was born. I’m quite proud.
- Empty toilet paper or paper towel roll
- Your phone
- A tissue
- 1 length of colorful elastic
1. Cut the toilet paper or paper towel roll so that it’s about 1″ wide.
2. Cut the yarn into about 50 pieces that are 8″ or 9″ in length. To do this quickly, wrap the yarn around your cell phone, from the top to the bottom, about 50 times. Cut the yarn and pull the loop of yarn off of the phone.
3. Cut one end of the loop so you have long, separate strings. (Note: If you want to use more than one color for your hat nose warmer, you won’t need to wrap each color of yarn as many times.)
4. Pick up one string of yarn and fold it in half. Push the looped end of the yarn through the center hole of the paper roll and grab it with the fingers of your other hand. Then hold the looped end of the yarn in one hand and the open ends in the other hand so that the paper roll piece is hanging from the yarn.
5. Push the open ends of the yarn through the loop of yarn in the other hand, and pull the loose ends tight to create a knot next to the paper roll.
6. Repeat the third step with each string of yarn until you have worked your way around the whole paper roll. Be sure that the knots are all on the same side of the roll! If you’re using more than one color of yarn, decide on a pattern. (Note: I did three yellow strings, one pink string, three yellow, one pink, etc.)
7. Once the entire paper roll is covered with yarn, take all of the loose yarn ends and stuff them into the paper roll so that they hang out of the other side.
8. Use one last string of yarn to tie around the group of yarn strings, about 1″ above the paper roll. Make it tight!
9. Trim the yarn strings to about 1/2″ long to create a pom-pom.
10. Attach the elastic in one of two ways. First, you can attach it by looping it through one of the yarn loops on the outside of the brim and tying it off. This works best for thinner, string-like elastic. Second, you can hot glue the elastics to the inside of the brim, where the nose goes. This works best for wider, thicker elastic.
11. Stuff a tissue into the hat to create a fuller look. Make sure to leave enough room for the lucky recipient’s nose!
12. Write a clever little note to include in the present so people know what it is.
Doll Limb Coat Rack
This gift is so spectacularly creepy and tacky that it just had to make the list. It may seem like a lot of work from reading the description, but it’s really not that hard. The most complicated part is the math, and I’ve laid it all out for you below. (Also, don’t let the word “math” scare you away! I’m terrible at math, and even I could do it.)
Oh, and a warning: I couldn’t think of a word better than “limbs” to describe the baby doll’s arms and legs. Sorry. *shrug*
- 1 large baby doll with soft body and plastic arms and legs
- Seam ripper
- Wooden board (mine was 23″ x 5 ¼”), sanded and stained or painted
- Ruler and/or tape measure
- Pencil and paper
- Hot glue gun
- 2 sawtooth picture hangers
- Drill or screwdriver and 4 screws
1. Remove the arms and legs from your baby doll. (Wow, that sounds bad.) Use scissors to cut them away from the body and a seam ripper to pull out any strings that are left in the plastic.
2. Measure your wooden board. Write down the length and width.
3. Measure the diameter of the baby doll’s arm and leg sockets. Be sure to measure both the legs and arms, as they may be different sizes. Write down the measurements.
4. Do a bunch of calculations to determine how to space out the arms and legs on the board. (Yay, math!) Keep track of everything on a piece of paper.
- Add together the diameters of the doll arms and legs. Be sure to count both diameters twice!
- Example: The diameter of each of my doll’s arms was 1 ½”, and the legs were 1 ¾”. So: 1 ½ + 1 ½ + 1 ¾ + 1 ¾ = 6 ½”
- Subtract the total of the diameters from the length of your board.
- Example: My board measured 23″, and my diameter total was 6 ½”. So: 23 – 6 ½ = 16 ½”
- Divide that number by 5 to determine how much space to put between each of the limb pieces (and between the short edges of the board and the first and last limbs).
- Example: 16 ½ ÷ 5 = 3 ³/1o (We’ll call this number Value A.)
- Subtract the diameter measurement of one arm from the total width of the board.
- Example: The width of my board was 5 ¼”, and the diameter of each arm was 1 ½”. So: 5 ¼ – 1 ½ = 3 ¾”
- Divide that number by two to determine how much space should be above and below each arm piece.
- Example: 3 ¾ ÷ 2 = 1 ⅞ (We’ll call this number Value B.)
- Subtract the diameter measurement of one leg from the total width of the board.
- Example: The width of my board was 5 ¼”, and the diameter of each leg was 1 ¾”. So: 5 ¼ – 1 ¾ = 3 ½”
- Divide that number by two to determine how much space should be above and below each leg piece.
- Example: 3 ½ ÷ 2 = 1 ¾” (We’ll call this number Value C.)
Phew. Moving on.
5. Use a ruler or measuring tape and a pencil to mark how horizontally far apart the limbs should be. Starting at one of the short ends of the board, measure the number of inches in your Value A and make a small, vertical line with your pencil. Starting at that line, measure the number of inches in Value A again, and draw another line. Continue this process down the board until you reach the other end. There should be four lines when you’re done.
6. Right above the first line you drew in Step 5, use your ruler or measuring tape to measure the distance of Value C from the end of one of the long sides of the board. Use the pencil to mark a line there that is perpendicular to the first line you drew. Together, these two lines will show you how to line up the circle at the end of the first doll leg.
7. Repeat Step 6 at the second mark you made in Step 5, this time using the measurement for Value B. This will show you how to line up the first doll arm.
8. Repeat Step 6 and Step 7 with the remaining two marks you made in Step 5.
9. Line the circle end of your first doll leg with hot glue. Make sure it’s nice and hot! Immediately push the glue end of the leg into the board, making sure it lines up with the guides you drew in Steps 5 and 6. Press it down for a good 30 seconds to make sure it adheres.
10. Repeat Step 9 with the first arm, then the second leg, and finally the last arm. Erase the pencil marks when you’re done, being careful not to bump into the doll limbs.
11. Using a drill or screwdriver, attach two sawtooth picture hangers to the back corners of the board, making sure they’re at the top of the board and that the sawtooth portions are pointing down. (Note: Mine only has one hanger, but I realized after the fact that two would be a better idea.)
12. If you’re concerned about your baby doll limbs falling off the board, you could always use a drill and some screws to secure them to the board from the back.
Pet Dust Bunny
I’m not really a pet person myself, but this is an animal that even I can get behind. Best of all, you likely already have most of the supplies you need to make it. And if you aren’t very artistic or crafty, it doesn’t really matter. It’s pretty hard to screw this one up.
- Dryer lint
- Hot glue gun
- 2 googly eyes
- Pink paper
- Sandwich bag
- Computer, printer, paper, and stapler (for label)
1. Pull some dryer lint from your machine’s lint trap (or from the little trash can you empty it out into).
2. Do your best to form it into a little bunny shape. The ears are the only part that really matters.
3. Use hot glue to attach the googly eyes.
4. Cut out a small triangle from the pink paper. Glue it onto the “bunny” just below the eyes.
5. Place the dust bunny in a zipping sandwich bag and close it. Get as much air out of it as you can so the bunny doesn’t move around and lose it’s shape.
6. Design and print a label explaining what the gift is in a funny, clever way. Use scissors to cut it out, making sure that the writing is at the bottom and there’s white space at the top for folding over.
7. Fold the label over the top of the bag and staple it on.
Underwear Chip Bowl
There’s nothing more appetizing than eating chips out of someone else’s underwear, am I right? While this project requires boxer briefs for it to work, there’s no restriction on how bold the underwear’s pattern can be. Have fun with it! I mean, it’s supposed to be tacky.
- 1 pair of little boy’s boxer briefs (mine were a size 6-7)
- Large plastic bowl with no lip (mine was 6″ tall and 11″ in diameter)
- Liquid starch
- A large bag of chips
1. Put the plastic bowl inside the underwear, making sure the waistband lines up perfectly with the rim of the bowl or overhangs slightly. You don’t want to be able to see the bowl from the outside.
2. Soak the underwear in liquid starch and allow it to dry. Before you do, decide whether you want the leg portions of the underwear to hang down or be folded around the bottom of the bowl.
3. Repeat Step 2 until the underwear is completely stiff.
4. Put your favorite bag of chips (still in the package) inside.
Maxi Pad Slipper and Eye Mask Set
This is just the best White Elephant gift… PERIOD! It’s funny, it’s practical, it’s tacky, and it’s likely to make some of the men folk uncomfortable. What more could you ask for?
- 5 maxi pads (the thicker the better)
- Decorations (pom poms, googly eyes, bows, rhinestones, feathers, bells, etc.)
- Hot glue gun
- 1 length of elastic
1. Unwrap two pads and remove the paper backings to expose the adhesive underneath. (Note: If your pads have wings, use scissors to cut them off.)
2. Lay one pad vertically, adhesive side up, on a flat surface. Take the second pad, also adhesive side up, and attach it horizontally to the upper portion of the first pad’s long side. It should look like this:
3. Wrap the other end of the second (horizontal) pad around the non-adhesive side of the first pad and attach it next to the other end. Make sure to leave a gap large enough for a foot to fit between the two pads when looking at the front of the slipper.
4. Decorate the top of the slipper by adding anything you want—bows, bells, pom-poms, feathers, patches, etc.—to the adhesive portion. If you want to make sure everything is very well attached, use a hot glue gun.
5. Repeat steps 1-4 to make a second slipper.
6. Make the mask by unwrapping 1 pad, removing the paper backing from the adhesive, and adding decorations.
7. Place a dot of hot glue on one of the short ends of the pad, and press one end of the elastic into the glue. Allow it to cool. Repeat with the other short end of the pad.
8. Write a note to include with the gift. You could say something like the following:
About this fabulous slipper set:
* Soft and comfortable
* Nice and absorbent for sweaty feet
* Perfectly hygienic
* Non-slip soles
* Disposable and biodegradable
*Bonus: Comes with a free sleep mask!
Funny Electrical Plates
I don’t think I’ve ever been able to look at an outlet cover and not see two surprised faces. So why not play into that by transforming a boring white cover into a fun statement piece? While you’re at it, throw in some Star Wars geekiness and give your switch plate a makeover too! Whoever receives this gift may not choose to replace their electrical plates with these much cooler ones, but they could.
- White switch plate
- Black permanent marker
Silly Faces Outlet Cover Directions:
1. Use the permanent marker to draw hair, hats, bowties, necklaces, or whatever you’d like around the open portions of the cover.
2. Make a bunch of them so your gift receiver can decorate their whole house!
Star Wars Switch Plate Directions:
1. Use a ruler to mark the middle of the plate. Then use the ruler to draw a straight line across the middle point with the marker.
2. On the top half of the switch plate, use the marker to write the outline of the name “Luke” in all capital letters. Then fill the name in with the marker.
3. On the bottom half of the switch plate, use a pen or pencil to write the outline of the name “Vader” in all capital letters. Then use the marker to color in the entire bottom half of the plate, starting at the line you drew in Step 1. Be sure to leave the name “Vader” white, only filling in the holes in the letters A, D, and R.
Why choose homemade?
When I went to my first White Elephant party a few years ago, I laughed harder than I had in a long time. Many of the gifts were truly funny, but I did notice that there were a lot of repeats. At least three people brought the man gut fanny pack, and there was more than one Nicolas Cage reverse sequin pillow. And while those are excellent gift options, there’s something to be said for going a different route. The best laughs come from the unexpected, unique presents that people didn’t stumble across while doing their own search on Amazon.
Another reason to opt for a homemade gift is that it’s significantly cheaper. Nearly all of the items below were made with things I already had, dollar store finds, and items I found for free on Facebook buy and sell groups. When a gift isn’t “real” anyway, why spend a lot of money?
Whatever your reasons for making your own DIY White Elephant gift, these homemade gems are sure to bring the laughs without breaking the bank.