What’s the worst gift you have ever received?

The worst gift I ever received was at a Christmas White Elephant gift exchange in Africa. A gift exchange is where people trade gifts for a holiday. The most popular type of gift exchange is a secret Santa gift exchange. OneUP has a secret Santa gift exchange at the OneUP Christmas party every year. At the Christmas party everybody buys a present worth 1000 yen and then random people get the presents. A White Elephant gift exchange is like an evil Secret Santa.

When I was a volunteer in Africa, several other volunteers and I held a Christmas party at a volunteer's house in the city of Mango. There were a lot of volunteers; I think there were about 20. We made a small Christmas tree and decided to have a gift exchange. Someone suggested that we have a White Elephant gift exchange.

For the exchange each person would buy a gift worth 1000 CFA (about 200 yen). The gifts were wrapped and put by the tree. Then we took some paper and wrote numbers on them. We put the numbers in a hat and each volunteer drew a number out of the hat. It was better to draw a larger number.

The person with number 1 is the first person to pick a gift. They choose which gift they want and then they unwrap it so that everybody can see what gift they got. Next the person with number 2 has a choice, they can either pick a gift or they can ‘steal' the gift from number 1. If they steal the gift from 1, 1 goes back and picks another gift and unwraps it. Then person 3 can either pick a gift or steal a gift from another person. It continues until everybody has a gift. The person with the largest number can of course choose any gift so it’s best to have the largest number.

At this white elephant I don’t remember what number I got but I was very happy with my gift. When I opened the gift, it was a jar of Nutella. Nutella is a delicious spread made from chocolate and hazelnuts. I was looking forward to eating that Nutella. I felt I was lucky to get such a good gift…. then tragedy struck.

A friend of mine had the next number. She carefully looked over all the wrapped gifts, she looked at the gifts that people had already opened and then she started to smile in an evil way. She looked like the devil. She came over to me and took my Nutella. I wanted to cry because she was so cruel.

I had to go back and choose another present. This time I was not lucky. The present was a cheap children’s toy. Nobody wanted the toy so that was the gift I had to keep. I did keep the toy as a souvenir for a few years, but I must have lost it at some point because I don’t know where it is now.


random (adjective) – unknown, unspecified, or undecided in advance; without a regular pattern
draw (verb) – to decide something by chance by picking cards, tickets or numbers
spread (noun) – a soft food that is put on bread, crackers, etc.
tragedy (noun) – an event that causes a lot of suffering, distress or that has an unhappy outcome
cruel (adjective) – extremely unkind, or causing people or animals to suffer
souvenir (noun) – something that you buy or keep to remember a special event or holiday