'Tis the season for Frosty, fruitcake and funny white elephant gifts.

The Creative Group asked more than 400 North American advertising and marketing executives this question: What is the strangest item you've ever seen exchanged at an office white elephant gift party?

The many highly amusing (and some raunchy) responses show that creative professionals clearly have interesting senses of humor. Here are some of the funny white elephant gifts that colleagues have swapped at lighthearted year-end office parties:

  • "A water gun that shoots marshmallows"
  • "A beard grooming kit for women"
  • "A leg lamp"
  • "Foxes, zebras, tigers and elephants made out of aluminum foil"
  • "A muumuu"
  • "A goofy cat statue"

While funny white elephants gifts are generally low priced, some frugal gift givers spent nothing and opted to simply raid their closets and bathrooms:

  • "A toilet seat cover"
  • "An old greasy work boot"
  • "A dirty toothbrush"
  • "A roll of toilet paper"
  • "Diapers"
  • "Scented garbage bags"

Food items are perennially popular holiday presents, but who needs gourmet sugar cookies when you can give:

  • "Pigs' feet"
  • "Sour milk"
  • "A stuffed fish you put on a wall"

The big boss might not only receive funny white elephant gifts; sometimes he or she is the funny white elephant gift:

  • "A Bobblehead of the boss"
  • "A blown-up picture of my supervisor in a pink tutu"

Some racy gifts fall firmly into the NSFW category:

  • "A vase in the shape of a naked person"
  • "Molds of chocolate shaped like body parts"

Whether or not you're attending an office white elephant party this year, here are some general gift-giving ideas and guidelines to consider when exchanging presents with coworkers:

Focus on the thought, not the cost

Pricier presents can make coworkers uncomfortable. Less extravagant, but carefully considered items that will be more meaningful are the way to go. Not sure what your recipient likes? Discretely check out the colleague's workspace for insights into his or her outside interests. Still stumped? You'll find all kinds of fun, practical and well-designed items at sites such as Poketo and Knock Knock. ThinkGeek is a great source when shopping for eclectic tech geeks. Seriously, who wouldn't love a talking Darth Vader cookie jar or an R2-D2 Coffee Press? The White Elephant Gifts section of the Archie McPhee website is another outstanding resource. (My favorite items include "Emergency Beard Guards," a cat bowtie, and rotisserie chicken candy canes.) 

Understand the culture 

Every creative firm or department is different. If you're relatively new to the organization, it can be difficult to figure out who exchanges gifts — and what types of gifts are appropriate. Don't assume. Ask a trusted colleague or your manager what the norm is when it comes to exchanging presents. And when in doubt, play it safe. It's hard to go wrong with coffee shop gift cards, good books or creative T-shirts.

Make something 

There's no rule that you have to buy a present. If you've got hands-on crafting skills or you like to bake, put your talents to use. Homemade items ­— whether it's a knitted scarf or your famous peppermint bark — are appropriate and likely to be appreciated. Another thing you can make? A small donation in the person's name to an organization he or she cares about.


Strike the right note 

Complementing a gift with a handwritten card is always a nice touch. And when you get a present — even a small one — it's smart to give the gift of gratitude. In today's era of text messages, a promptly written thank-you note will be warmly received and remembered.

Set your sights on next year 

Time management troubles are common in November and December, given all the hustle and bustle of the season. If you run out of time for a funny holiday gift, all is not lost. You can still give a calendar, planner, journal or some other New Year's-themed present in early January.