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The Valley Line: Club has some fun with a ‘white elephant’ gift exchange

Members of our city's oldest women's club, the La Cañada Thursday Club, found a way to chase away the post holiday blues by holding a "white elephant" gift exchange and luncheon.

Nearly 30 ladies arrived at the clubhouse bearing festively wrapped presents, anticipating the fun that was sure to come.

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Co-chairing this fun event were Gracella Gibbs, Sherry Wolfe and Patti Wickersham.

The afternoon began with a social time and catching up with news of everyone's holiday activities.

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The luncheon tables were set formally and each was centered with a wrapped present tied with colorful bows. The bows on all the gift packages were admired and eventually playfully commandeered by Sheri Morton, president of the club, who said that she was an admitted ribbon hoarder.

Before luncheon was served, Gracella handed out a quiz with a series of club-related questions to be answered by each table's group of women. The winning table included Bev Holt, Mary Ann Fell, Charlotte Layland, Elaine Kaiser, Priscilla Brandt and Bev Albright. As the winners, they each received beautiful and fragrant miniature rose plants in various colors that also served as the room's fireplace mantel décor.

A delicious lunch of a uniquely prepared chicken casserole and green salad was served, followed by a rich cheesecake adorned with fresh raspberries.

After culinary appetites had been sated, chairs were placed in a large circle around the piles of mysterious white elephant gifts.

There was a preamble read by Gracella before the frivolity of gift exchanging began. Chris Rekdahl, the exceptional facilities manager for the club, did some internet research about the beginning of the game that we know as "White Elephant." Rekdahl's research revealed that this game is also known as "Yankee Swap" and became popular in the late 1800s.

As a lover of trivia, I found the explanation interesting. So much so that I too did a bit of internet research I will share with you here. This particular information was researched and published by albinophantblog.com.

"Some label a project that has an enormous production cost with little apparent future return, as a white elephant. There have been naval ships, sports stadiums and even huge water projects which some term as a 'white elephant'. Many times these projects create a huge political debate that lasts for decades. Is an expensive project anything like a real white elephant?

"How on earth did a unique animal like the albino elephant gain this reputation as a useless and unwanted gift, or the object of potential financial ruin? This is particularly interesting when the actual history of these rare elephants revolves around an animal of very high value and with the sacred respect of its admirers."

The article goes on to explain how albino elephants were kept by people of privilege and were often given as gifts to symbolize friendship and respect, although the cost of caring for the animals could put the new owner in financial jeopardy.

"And so we have our modern day concept of white elephants," the article states. "These words came to symbolize a prized possession whose maintenance cost exceeded its worth. It is a myth and a great misrepresentation of the real value of an important and thoughtful gift from one admirer to another."

This game played by the ladies of the Thursday Club was so much fun. It was accompanied by hoots of laughter and some "oohs and ahs" as a mystery gift was unwrapped — and in some cases hidden so it couldn't be "stolen"— according to game rules.

Those not previously mentioned who attended the event included Pat Ryburn, Mary Berglund, Marcie Haug, Sue Tutt, Yvonne Elleri, Trudy Lucey, Donna DeMond, Jacquie Townsend, Jean Zink, Danielle Gladding, Carol Wickersham, Pat Huber, Elizabeth Keller, Rose Manning and Marilyn Pieroni.

JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada Flintridge social scene. Email her at jnvalleysun@aol.com with news of your special event.

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