[image description: An old card, from a peculiar deck. It shows two views of a white elephant and where one might expect a K, Q, or J, there is only a ‘?’ One side is a heart. The other a spade. One elephant is in a red smoking jacket and holds an ornamented golden jar. The other is dressed in deep blue and holds a sword. Both also hold rings. Text reads, “169, Strunk – small god of the White Elephant Gift Exchange”]
Nobody really likes Strunk, which is a pity, because he’s a very sweet god. He’s very earnest, and he means well; he wants everyone to walk away happy, and not be saddled with a gift they didn’t want but have to perform enthusiasm for anyway, because someone who really cares is watching.
People don’t give gifts they really care about at White Elephant parties. Strunk is just glad that’s the name most people know his worship by these days: they used to call him “Dirty Santa,” and he likes the trunk better than the coal-stained gloves and the cigar. Gods so rarely get the opportunity to choose their final forms.
When all his worshippers play fairly and without cruelty, Strunk’s masses can be glorious occasions, filled with laughter and with joy. But all too often, the people who come to his celebrations see them as an opportunity to be casually cruel, to give gifts meant to embarrass and demean, and those people spoil things for everyone. He is the god of taking candy from babies on those days, when there is one good gift and a dozen or more terrible ones, passed around like hot potatoes, unwanted and indestructible.
He wishes people were kinder. He is a kind god, and he would that everyone were happy. Given the choice, he would provide good gifts for all.
But alas, it isn’t really up to him.
Be kind to Strunk this year: if you are called to one of his ceremonies, go in good faith or go not at all. Bring something you would not be angry or ashamed to receive, and if the worst of things ends the day in your hands, take it with good grace. The dumpster is always waiting, and Strunk doesn’t judge.
He just wants you to be happy. Be happy for him.
Join Lee Moyer (Icon) and Seanan McGuire (Story) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a guide to the many small deities who manage our modern world: