An American woman ended up with more than she bargained for during a so-called “white elephant” Christmas gift exchange.
In a video on TikTok that’s since been viewed millions of times, Brionna shared her experience at a present-swapping party. The game, also sometimes known as Bad Santa, involves each guest bringing a wrapped, unlabelled gift, drawing a number, and picking out a parcel one-by-one when it’s their turn – or stealing another person’s pick.
“I went first and I picked my gift and it was $25 Visa gift card. It was so cool. Thanks, I love $25,” Brionna began.
When the fifth player “stole” her gift card, however, she was forced to take another present from the pile – with things going downhill from there.
“I picked this bag and it said ‘fragile’ on it, and ‘do not shake’. I’m like, ‘This is going to be something interesting’. I like bags that come with instructions, so I picked the bag,” she said.
“I opened the bag, and inside of the bag there’s a bowl, and inside of the bowl, there’s a cup.
“Before I tell you what’s in this cup, I just want to ask: what kind of monster would do this?
“What goes through a person’s mind when they decide, ‘I don’t know who’s going to get this but this is the thing that I think I’m fine with anybody getting’?”
Not only did the bag hold a bowl and a cup, but a live Siamese fighting fish – prompting Brionna to repeatedly ask, “what?”
After learning the meaning behind the game’s name, “white elephant”, Brionna said her “unexpected” present made a lot more sense.
“Let me tell you the origin of the term ‘white elephant’, which I just learned – so appropriate,” she said.
“The kings in Siam used to give [actual] white elephants as gifts to people they did not like because the upkeep of the elephant would ruin them financially.
“So all I was given for this living creature is a bowl, and a little teeny tiny packet of food – just little pellets for a living creature.
“You’ve given me a mouth to feed.”
Upon returning home, Brionna said she was forced to buy a series of essentials for her new pet.
“So I just had to go spend my own money to get a tank with a lid on top because I have cats; some rocks, flake food for him and a water filter because it’s already starting to get muggy in here,” she said.
“Who does this? Thank god he came home with me. I have some value for his poor little fishy life. What if he ended up with someone who just flushed him down the toilet? You don’t know. What kind of a monster does this?”
In a follow-up video, Brionna said that while the fish wasn’t what she’d been hoping for, “I am happy to have him now because I love him … and his home forever which is hopefully a long time because I spent a lot of money”.
Hundreds took to the comments of Brionna’s video to share their own experiences of becoming pet owners after a round of white elephant.
“I got a bunny for white elephant one year. Someone re-gifted their pet,” one person wrote.
While another commented: “I got a beta fish at a white elephant exchange. He died three weeks later. I was devastated.”
“I went to a white elephant and someone brought hamsters … in a ball … in a bag,” a third said.