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White Elephant Exchange Livens Holiday Party

I attended a classy holiday party for Deborah’s Palm in Palo Alto, CA at nearby Joya Restaurant. Founder Katie Ritchey hosted the luncheon and white elephant gift exchange. There were 48 of us, who according to Katie, have contributed in some way to Deborah’s Palm, the non-profit organization she started in 2008. Her mission is to “offer all women a place to unwind, connect with others, discover new options, and restore a sense of well-being.” She has been accomplishing that for the past four years by attracting hundreds of members and volunteers who have woven a tapestry of offerings that appeal to every need and interest a woman could have.

Deborah’s Palm is located in a beautifully restored Queen Ann Victorian built in 1896. Katie purchased the former Bed and Breakfast in 2006 and spent two years renovating it. She is a remarkable woman with boundless energy. The luncheon reflected her motto at Deborah’s Palm: connect, discover, unwind, restore.

We enjoyed a delicious lunch while connecting with all the women who volunteer their time and expertise for the multitude of classes and workshops offered there. To unwind, we played the White Elephant Gift Exchange Game, a light-hearted way to have fun with family, friends, or colleagues.

Traditionally, white elephant gifts are extremely tacky and sometimes strange. The thought behind a white elephant gift exchange is to give everyone a chance to rid themselves of these tacky gifts and invariably gain a new one!

Each person brings a wrapped gift that is under $10 or an item from home that is re-gifted—the quirkier the better.

You must be secretive and not let people know which gift you brought.

Each person gets a number and the person with #1 gets to choose any gift she wants and opens it for everyone to see.

The next person can either open a new gift or “steal” an already opened gift. If she steals someone’s gift, that person can steal from someone else, or open another new gift. A gift can only be stolen 3 times. You cannot steal back the gift that was just stolen from you.

The exchange continues until every gift has been opened and the last person keeps their gift. The #1 person gets to go last by stealing a gift that has not been stolen 3 times already or deciding to keep their current gift.

The game is great entertainment and is always a surprise about which items become the most coveted. At the luncheon, two items changed owners the maximum three times: a 2-foot high glass bottle shaped like the Eiffel Tower and a glass rooster. I was delighted with my white elephant—a pair of Gloveables, stylish rubber gloves with a decorative cuff that comes in different colors and designs. There’s a word of caution on the label: Use of this product has been known to cause laughter.

The woman who selected my gift was also thrilled when she unwrapped the tissue paper and saw a beautiful navy wool poncho. She immediately put it on and I thought it was a perfect match. I told her it belonged to my dear mother-in-law who lived until the age of 93 and was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known. Another woman considered stealing it but changed her mind. I know my mother-in-law would be pleased it found a good home.

Katie opened the final gift and it couldn’t have been more fitting—a white china tea pot shaped like an elephant! And like Katie, she immediately said she’d put it in Deborah’s Palm’s kitchen for everyone to enjoy.

What a great holiday celebration! We each went home with a new treasure and a feeling of gratitude for Katie Ritchey, whose vision and generosity have enriched so many women’s lives.

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