How does secret Santa work?

What is Secret Santa?

If you’ve never heard of secret Santa before it’s essentially giving gifts anonymously, usually between a group of family, friends or colleagues. It can be played as a game, be a way of getting a nice extra gift or be a way of cutting down on the number of gifts you need to buy within a group.

Origins of Secret Santa

The origins of the term are a little unclear. A philanthropist Larry Dean Stewart is often credited as being the original secret Santa, who would anonymously give gifts during the holiday season, typically $100 bills.

However in Scandanavia there’s a tradition of Julklapp, where people anonymously leave gifts outside people’s houses, knock and their doors and run away. A far nicer version of knock-knock ginger. While the German version, Wichteln, takes its name from a Nordic mythical figure that secretly does good.

How Secret Santa works

The basic idea of a secret Santa is to gather a group of friends, family or coworkers, and anonymously assign each person a “secret Santa” who will buy them a gift, usually within a certain low budget.

Setting a budget is a good idea whether it’s a £5 office secret Santa or a £50 gift exchange between siblings. It just means everyone is spending roughly the same amount which keeps things fair and means people aren’t pressured into spending lots of money.

If it's possible to get everyone together you can put all the names in a hat (a Christmas one of course) or there are websites that will randomly pick for you.

Once you’ve each been assigned a person to buy for it’s time to find the perfect gift. Each secret Santa may be given a wish list of things their recipient would like this is a good idea to ensure that everyone gets something they actually want especially if people in the group don’t know each other well.

You can also play a white elephant secret Santa and challenge people to buy silly or funny gifts.

Then all you have to do is arrange a date for a gift exchange. Exchanging gifts and opening them all together is best although you can do this with a video call if people are too far away.

Make sure people tag their gifts with the name of the recipient, not the giver, and let everyone open their gifts.

To reveal or not to reveal

It’s completely up to you and your group whether you reveal the identity of the Santa’s or not. Guessing who gave each gift can be part of the fun but so can never finding out for certain who chose you the perfect book or the cosiest pair of slippers.

And be prepared to be surprised. You might think you know instantly who was responsible for your gift and later find out it was from someone completely different.

Baba Me
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