Items to envy at a gift swap

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Gift exchanges are a part of holiday fun, and they come in all shapes and sizes, including the anonymous “white elephant” swap.

The tradition gets its name from an Asian legend that kings would give white elephants as gifts to subordinates. Today, a white elephant exchange (also called Yankee Swap, Stealing Santa, or other names) can be anything from a re-gift of unwanted gag items to an exchange of nice gifts where the giver and receiver are not matched beforehand.

White elephant exchanges are conducted in a variety of ways. The most common is some variation on the following:

Each guest brings a wrapped gift and receives a number upon arriving.

Starting with the number 1, each guest takes a turn either choosing a gift from the pile or stealing a gift from another guest. Some sets of rules have each guest opening his or her gift immediately after taking it from the pile; others require that all gifts are taken from the pile before anything is opened or stolen.

Often, there is a second or third round of stealing gifts before the exchange is over and, sometimes, the rules state that a gift cannot be stolen more than two or three times. Overall, the important thing is to make the game fair and fun for all who are playing. And the up side to getting a gift not suited for you — it can be saved for next year’s gift swap.

Desirable gifts

For exchanges of gifts people would actually want to receive, there are usually rules about how much to spend; most online sources mention a limit of $10 to $20. Both Brady’s Craft Mart in Orland Park and Art Glass & More in Homewood have a large selection of affordable holiday gifts for both indoors and outdoors.

Brady’s Craft Mart owner Marge Brady describes her store as a year-round craft show, with individual crafters selling their wares out of booths. During the holiday season, the store is decked out in a winter theme with wreaths, home décor, and other seasonal items for sale.

“You name it, honestly, we have it,” Brady said.

Art Glass & More owner Chris Carter carries items such as candle holders and sun catchers. Both stores can customize virtually any item, making for a special gift for an exchange. Even though the white elephant swap is anonymous, personalizing with a common favorite hobby can make for a meaningful gift.

“Your only limitation is your imagination,” Carter said.

More information about Brady’s Craft Mart is at (708) 403-7700 or at bradyscraftmart.com. More information about Art Glass & More is at (708) 799-3660 or artglassandmore.com.