Let’s review the situation: you’ve got a holiday parting up at your workplace or among friends, and everyone’s tasked with bringing one baffling, jokey item. You, brave holiday shopper, must find a perfect White Elephant gift.
What is White Elephant? Just keep in mind that these are not ideas for Secret Santa, which is a much more thoughtful tradition about getting just the right gift for someone. No, White Elephant (or Yankee Swap or Dirty Santa, as the kids apparently call it) is about wrapping bizarre gifts and gleefully waiting to see the dumbstruck look on whoever opens your oddball item.
Here are 15 things that fit the bill – and because we’re TechRadar, they’ve all got a techie spin. We’ll stick to things between $20-$30, which is the usual limit for White Elephant swaps.
But for all you overachievers, we’ve included a few ridiculous items at the end that exceed that price threshold if you spare no expense on gag gifts.
The top White elephant gifts
Plush USB-powered hand warmers: $30 on Amazon (opens in new tab)
Slide these on your hands and type away without the winter (or full-blast AC) chill cramping your workflow. These adorable plushy toast figures supposedly come in soft flannel, stay powered via USB and boast automatic temperature control. Stay warm, stay productive.
Keyboard-cleaning tiny leaf blower: $15 on What On Earth (opens in new tab)
We're not supposed to eat or drink near our computers, but we all tempt fate – and sometimes, food falls through the cracks. Enter this tiny USB-powered leaf blower, which may or may not be more useful than compressed air, but darn if it isn't ludicrous.
Microfiber mop ball auto-duster: $18 on Amazon (opens in new tab)
This motorized ball roams around collecting dust and particles like a Katamari for cleaning under your couch. The reviews aren't impressive, so don't expect a lot from this budget Roomba – except a look of glorious confusion from whoever opens it. Doubles as a pet toy.
Dancing stuffed dog speaker: $16 on Amazon (opens in new tab)
This is a dog, standing upright, that plays music (via an aux cord plugged into its leg) and gyrates. It's probably terrible at both of those things, which makes it perfect for a White Elephant.
Blinged-out Bluetooth speaker fidget spinner: $15 on Amazon (opens in new tab)
Last year's obnoxious youth trend with upgrades nobody asked for, this next-level fidget spinner has it all: Bluetooth-connected speakers, a hands-free microphone for calls, LEDs to make patterns when you spin, and the gaudiest faux-gold finish. It's beautiful.
Classic Windows solitaire deck: $16 on Amazon (opens in new tab)
Just an ordinary deck of cards for some, but to anyone who wiled away the hours playing solitaire on machines running Windows 3.0, this is a blast from the past.
Smart egg tray: $10 on Amazon (opens in new tab)
Who doesn't love eggs? This 14-egg tray (for those Night Vale-esque grocery stores that sell them in a super baker's dozen) has little LEDs that indicate the oldest egg. The tray sends push notifications to your phone if you're running low. Is anyone paranoid about their eggs? They will be now.
Multicolor ocean wave light projector: $27 on Amazon (opens in new tab)
Have the opposite of a rave while you're getting ready for bed with this thing – a projector that paints your ceiling with undulating hues while it plays ocean sounds. Soothe yourself to sleep with a calming light show. Process your day. Embrace infinity.
Furry smartphone case: $11 on Amazon (opens in new tab)
Why have a boring ceramic or rubber case when your smartphone could be coated in faux fur? If you don't know which phones your coworkers have, perhaps buy a couple case types and whoever ends up with the gift can give the extra away to spread your cheer.
GloLens clip-on vanity light: $20 on The Grommet (opens in new tab)
If one wanted to take glamorous selfies, this would be the way to do it: with a wide-angle lens surrounded by a ring light, all in a clip-on setup. For the vain (or those who just appreciate good lighting).
Automated Floss Dispenser: $30 on The Grommet (opens in new tab)
This little dude lights up when it's time to floss, spools out the "perfect" length, and then ticks down a timer for you to do some good dental hygiene. Everyone could use some help here.
Ghost-detecting EMF sensor: $30 on Amazon (opens in new tab)
This detects electromagnetic fields – and is keyed to ignore the big fields around humans in favor of the small fields that supposedly surround haunted phenomena. Not hunting for ghosts? It still picks up EMF, if you're looking.
Cradled hands smartphone holder: $20 on Amazon (opens in new tab)
Need a place to put your smartphone or gadget down? How about resting it on this pair of replicated hands?
Lazy binge-watching-while-laying-down glasses: $18 on Amazon (opens in new tab)
We've all been there: several episodes to go before finishing the season, but sitting up is so much work. Instead, pick up a pair of these glasses for your work swap and see if anyone uses them while, y'know, working.
Pricey, but still perfect
Ugly sweater with a smartphone fireplace: $37-$60 on Amazon (opens in new tab)
Download the app on your smartphone and then slip it into the fabric to have a fireplace going in the middle of your ugly sweater. It's useless. It's perfect. Note that changing size changes the price...for reasons?
Dancebot: $80 on Amazon (opens in new tab)
The logical extreme of the dancing speaker concept, this thing uses "smart algorithmic programming" to "interpret audio input on the fly." Also, you can connect to it over Bluetooth and play audio through it.
Smell-you-awake alarm clock: $80 (opens in new tab)
The alarm clock of tomorrow will gently usher you from Morpheus' dream realm to the shores of the waking world with the power of smell. The clock ships with one scent, Paradise, but you can also load up on Bacon or Coffee to tempt you from sleep. It's basically a diffusor you can trigger at a certain time.
- Looking for gifts for people you actually like? Here's our list of cheap Secret Santa gifts