Our family’s 2016 “What Is It?” Christmas game

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all of my readers! 

I hope you’ve been enjoying a relaxing weekend with family, friends, and loved ones. 

Last night, our extended family got together for our annual Christmas Eve dinner and the second annual “What Is It?” family gift swap. You may remember that this is a game my sister dreamed up in 2015 for our family. (Here’s a report on how the inaugural What Is It? gift swap went last year.)


Here are the rules: 

  1. Find or acquire an item that you think will stump everyone else on Christmas Eve. Don’t spend more than $5 on it. (Goodwill, thrift stores and garage sales are great places to find “treasures!” 
  2. Wrap and bring your item to the swap. If your item is in packaging that would give away its purpose, you may remove it from its package.
  3. At the swap, draw numbers or come up with another way to determine the order that the gifts would be opened. (This year, we opened in the order of our birthdays.)
  4. Pass out scraps of paper and pencils to everyone.
  5. Person #1 chooses a wrapped gift from the pile and opens the gift. They show it to everyone and can pass it around. 
  6. Every guest (other than the gift-opener) then writes their idea of what they feel the mystery item might be on a piece of paper. 
  7. The papers are passed to Person #2. 
  8. Person #2 reads all of the suggestions aloud to the group (so Person #1 cannot be influenced by recognizing the other guests’ handwriting.)
  9. Person #1 then chooses the suggestion that they liked best. If you’ve ever played Apples To Apples, you may already realize that the item’s actual purpose was not necessarily the “right” answer — in our group, many times the funniest answer suggested was the winner.
  10. Whoever wrote the “winning” description of the mystery item wins that item! 
  11. Play then progresses to Person #2 and continues until there are no more wrapped gifts to open. At the end, if the same player wins more than one gift, he or she can re-gift them to anyone who didn’t win an amazing item to take home. 

Last year, everyone brought a great assortment of unusual items to the Christmas party. (For example, the item in the above photo is a cobbler’s pliers for stretching leather!)

After the riotous time we had last year, our entire family has actually been on the hunt throughout 2016 during many Goodwill store trips to acquire just the right items for this year’s “What Is It?” swap!

Here are the items the Cataldo family contributed to this year’s game:


My husband spotted these new in the box at Goodwill almost nine months ago. What the heck are these for? Take a guess, then click here to see the item’s packaging, which reveals these rock-encrusted gloves’ purpose…


What’s this? We had remarkable luck finding new-in-the-box unusual items this year. There were a lot of guesses from family members that pertained to days of the week, but only my sister pointed out that there are not eight days in a week!  Click to see what this is


Okay, it’s a block of wood. There’s a stamp on the end that says “This Way Up.” The label would have revealed what this item was, so I slid it out of the cellophane. While I bought this for $1.99 at Goodwill, there was a Menards clearance price tag of $10.99 on the back, which made this item look even more impressive.

While I did not choose to open my own gift, I did win it by correctly identifying this item as a “Sibling Behavior Enforcement Device,” which made everyone laugh and got one of our own gift items returned to our family. So, what is it?


What’s this thing? It too came in its original packaging, but it was much more fun to look at out of the box. Family guesses were pretty funny for this one –“lumberjack mustache” got quite a few giggles. The winner of this item simply identified it as “a turd” and won it. So, what is it?


This, by far, was the item I was most excited about bringing to the gift swap! I cannot express how elated I was to find this jewel sitting on the shelves of my local Goodwill store. I knew it would be PERFECT for our swap. I grabbed it and took it right to the register, where the cashier asked if I knew what it was. She said nobody in the store knew. I did know what it was (Dad’s a former farmer, I grew up in a farm town, I’m a  former 4H-er who saw these items live and in person, I still have family that farms)  and the cashier immediately said “If I had known what it was, I would have bought it immediately!”

My brother-in-law unwrapped this item, and my dad immediately grinned. He too knew what it was. Do you?

We kept this item on display in our home until it was time to wrap it for the swap, so our children also knew what this item was. The guesses were outstanding. My youngest son, not wanting to risk writing something funny and ending up winning this,  simply wrote “I do not want this” on his sheet of paper.

Guess what — his answer made my brother-in-law laugh so much that he passed the item right over to my son. I guess this was destined to stay in the family!

Now, I have to share some photos of what I won in the swap!


I believe this is an expandable carrier for a serving tray, but I won it by calling it an “Adjustable Cow Branding Iron.” Woo hoo!

I got a little nervous when another family member wrote that it was a “Silent Accordion” as I felt that was also an excellent guess. 


Our daughter won a gift bag containing these two items. Her winning guess was “Canadian Survival Kit,” beating out my own guess of “Rejected Shapes for USA States.” After she won this pair of things, we tried to figure out what they actually are…


Her Canadian-themed guess wasn’t too far off. This is a moose head pancake mold! However, no one in our entire family can figure out what the other item is — not even the family member that purchased it. 


The handle on this reminds me of some of my home canning tools, but the heavy cast iron disc at the bottom — what’s that for? Anyone have any idea what this is? Last year, my readers correctly identified another of the strange items brought to our swap, so perhaps one of you knows what this actually is. Feel free to share in the comments! 


    • says

      What would it be used for? The cast iron piece is perfectly round and flat on the bottom, but the handle covers the edge of the round edge on top (you could not carry a cylindrical item on top, like a soda can, as it would hit the handle.)

    • says

      We thought of that, but most hamburger presses have sides to form the patty – I’ve got a plastic one like that. Being that this is made of iron, we are guessing it’s built to come in direct contact with heat.

      Someone in the family speculated that it might be a bacon press, but those are usually rectangular. It IS an unusual item :)

  1. dancingwolves says

    I can’t read the label as the print is too small…what is a bully bag anyway used for? I do watch a lot of cooking shows so I’m not sure where to venture with this one.

  2. dancingwolves says

    The lady at work owns a horse farm that trains American Saddle horses. She spoke of testicle “parties” where they had to neuter horses. This must be a by product of the bull version.

  3. traci says

    Your cast iron gift looks like a spoon rest. Maybe it’s cast iron so it is heavy enough not to tip and also so that it can withstand the heat when placed on top of the stove. I found a similar looking item called a “Typhoon Novo Spoon Rest in Red 6.5.” when I searched for “vertical spoon rests.”

    • says

      I think you may be right. Ours is different, but the style is similar. It would have to be heavy enough not to tip if a spoon or ladle was standing on it.

      Unless someone else comes up with a 100% answer to what this is, I’m going with spoon rest :) Thanks!

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