A White Elephant Epiphany Tradition

The three Wise Men brought precious things to the Child in the manger; this is why some countries have reserved Epiphany for the day of Christmastide on which to share gifts with family and friends.

In my family we give each other gifts on Epiphany, too–horrible ones!

For this Feast, my husband and I go to my parents’ house and we have a hilarious White Elephant Gift Exchange (also known as a Yankee Swap). Each person shops (usually at a thrift store) and selects the most ugly, outrageously horrible thing he can find. He keeps this carefully hidden until he wraps it for the Epiphany Party on the night of Epiphany.

The first person who has been selected to open a gift chooses one, and opens it. The second person to open a gift has a choice: he can either “steal” the gift of the first person, or open a new one from the table. If the second person “steals” the gift, he takes it from the first person and then the now present-less first person goes back to the table and gets to open a new gift. Then the third person gets to make the same choice: “steal” or open a gift. The same procedure goes for the fourth person, fifth, etc, until all the gift have been opened.

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(The above item is a one-eyed tissue-box holder.)

This tradition is one of my favorite parts of the day: each person in the family tries to outdo the others in finding something awful, and it is just hilarious as the items are unwrapped, eyesore by eyesore. Some things, like the plush and plastic singing (I am not kidding!) poinsettia from the drug store have become legendary in our family!

Since we’re celebrating Epiphany in the U.S. on January 5, I only have one more day to shop for something horrible. I’ll be out at the thrift stores today. Oh, I just can’t wait to see what my folks have gotten tomorrow!


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