Secret Santa gift exchanges are a popular way to celebrate the holidays. This is especially true for large families and groups of friends who would otherwise feel obligated to buy a gift for everyone. Instead, they can set a price limit, choose names in advance, so they have time to shop and focus on buying one nice gift for one person. Let’s take a look at how Secret Santa works, some Secret Santa tips, and get inspired by some Secret Santa Gift ideas for friends and family.
Before diving into Secret Santa tips, let’s take a look at how it works. A Secret Santa gift exchange involves each participant choosing a name randomly. You could do this the old-fashioned way by choosing names from a hat, bowl, or whatever you have lying around the house when you’re all together (likely at Thanksgiving). Or you could do it digitally. There are some clever apps and websites that allow you to input the names of all participants before it digitally assigns people to each other. Once you receive your name, keep it a secret!
But try your best in the meantime to figure out what types of gifts they like, so you give them something they’ll find useful. When in doubt, you can always get a gift card to a place you’ll know they’ll enjoy, but try your best to give them something nice. Christmas throw blankets, for example, are loved by everyone, and you don’t have to worry about whether or not they fit!
If you want to be part of the Secret Santa gift exchange, be sure to speak your mind when you discuss a budget. If someone chimes in recommending a $50 budget and you have no desire to spend that much on anyone you work with, there's absolutely nothing wrong with speaking up. In fact, your coworkers will probably admire you for your honesty and would probably appreciate the suggestion to lower the budget. Remember that Secret Santa gifts are supposed to help everyone avoid breaking the bank.
We mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth repeating: Try to get to know your Secret Santa as much as you can. Whether it’s a colleague you haven’t quite warmed up to or a family member who you don’t see very often, they’ll appreciate the amount of effort you put into a gift that shows that you tried. And all it takes is a bit of listening in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Are they always complaining about losing their lunch in the communal work refrigerator? If so, consider a personalized lunch bag that stands out from the rest. Are they always munching on a particular midday snack? Buy a bunch of them and pack them into a personalized Christmas stocking. If you're feeling brave or you want to be sure your money is well spent, don't be afraid to ask discreetly what they'd like for a gift.
Don't try to outdo others by giving your Secret Santa a more expensive gift than specified in the rules. If you agree to a $20-gift, keep it as close to that amount as possible or risk some resentful looks. If you do go over, keep it quiet. Nobody needs to know how much you spent. The key is that the gift should be of good quality and demonstrate that some thought was put into it.
White elephant gift exchanges are becoming more commonplace; they put the fun in the holidays and take the stress away. How? You take a present you received but truly do not want, and regift it to someone else who will either think it's just as hilarious or might actually appreciate it. Or, buy something inexpensive that invokes a laugh. If you're not positive that the gift you're buying will definitely end up in a specific person's hands, a Christmas candle will be an excellent addition to anyone's holiday bounty.
While it’s important to stick to whatever rules you decide upon, you can still have some fun when setting your rules. There are lots of creative Secret Santa rules to make gift-giving even more fun and stress-free. For example, you've likely heard about the "ugly Christmas sweater" tradition. But why does it have to be ugly? A Christmas sweater exchange is a great tradition for holiday parties. Simply require participants to indicate their sweater size with their names before assigning the gifters and recipients. Then, when it comes time to swap during the holiday party, everyone can throw on their sweaters and show off their goods. You can also turn Secret Santa into a game. Count your Secret Santa gifts once everyone has them ready. Say 10 people are participating. Then write the number “1” on one small piece of paper, “2” on the next, all the way up to 10. Fold each piece of paper and place them into a bowl or a festive basket. Ask each person to choose a folded piece of paper from that bowl. Whatever number they choose represents their turn in selecting a gift. Make sure they open the gift for everyone to see, and then turn things up a notch by letting the next person “steal” another person’s gift when it’s their turn. It’s all good fun!
Remember this holiday season: Gifting doesn't have to be stressful. Make it fun, agree on a budget, buy with integrity, and give from your heart!