Editor's Note: Delicately balancing white elephants

Our office’s holiday party is this week, and the thing on people’s minds is not the potluck lunch, nor the ugly sweater contest.

It’s the white elephant gift exchange.

The proposed exchange is to be done grab-bag style. You take your worthless item, wrap it up, and put it on the pile; then later, you take a different gift from the pile. Some people, grinning wickedly, say they already have the perfect item wrapped up.

The nice thing about an office regifting exchange is that, unless you work in the type of office in which people routinely exchange gifts, there’s practically zero chance you will inadvertently hurt the feelings of the person who presented you with the white elephant in the first place.

When it comes to getting rid of things that were given as gifts, there’s a fine line to walk. Some you hang onto just for the sentimental attachment. OK, so that clock is not your style and matches nothing else in your house. But it reminds you of the cousin who gave it to you, and you like being reminded of your cousin, so you keep it.

Others you hang onto because of someone else’s sentimental attachment – even though you don’t like the gift and would never choose it yourself, the giver would be crestfallen if they found out.

The accuracy of your memory is where the danger lies. If you can’t remember where or how you got some particular item, and you can’t imagine why you have it in the first place, be careful about regifting it. The giver might be heartbroken to learn you sold or gave away – especially if you regift it to them.

One nice thing about not forming strong sentimental attachments to things is that I also don’t expect other people to hang onto things they don’t want, even if it was a gift from me.

Just don’t regift it to me; I have enough white elephants of my own.

A nerdy note

A special note to any readers who, like me, find weird and obscure little things interesting: An observant reader pointed out to me that this Saturday’s date, 12/13/14, is the last time the digits of the date will line up in numerical order for 89 years. The next time will be on Jan. 2, 2103.


Due to incorrect information provided to The MidWeek, the article “Forsberg certified in school risk management,” which ran in the Nov. 26 edition, contained an error. According to the National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research, Larry Forsberg is one of a few Illinois insurance agents to hold the Certified School Risk Manager designation.

Loading more