The Complete Guide to Secret Santa

It's Christmas time, yay eggnog! So here's a guide on how to do a Secret Santa. If you're not familiar with the concept, we'll go over the rules as well as few hints, tips and ideas for Secret Santa gifts.

Secret Santa rules

What Is Secret Santa?

Here's a little bit of history. It's believed that the birth of the Secret Santa stems from an American chap called Larry Stewart, who through his Christmas related philanthropy, mainly handing cash out anonymously to those less fortunate during the festive period, received the nickname 'Kansas City's Secret Santa'.

This legacy of anonymous gift giving is what continues in the Secret Santa tradition, a Christmas tradition that is practised by many in the western world.

How To Do Secret Santa

The actual practice of Secret Santa now tends to occur in schools and workplaces, or even in particularly large families, and offers the chance for the giving and receiving of gifts at a low price to participants, anonymously or otherwise.

Ahead of the day that presents are given out, names of those involved are put into a hat (of the Christmas variety ideally) and then each participant draws, in secret, the name of the person for whom they'll buy a gift.

Everyone then goes away and buys their gifts within a set budget, usually about £5. Each gift is marked with the name of the recipient, but not the gift-giver.

The giving of the Secret Santa gifts is usually performed with all presents being placed under a tree, ahead of the day or just before, and for a particularly flamboyant touch, sometimes with a colleague or family member dressed up as Santa and given the role of giving out the gifts.

Secret Santa Rules

For the purposes of explanation we'll use the example of an office secret santa, but the basic Secret Santa rules apply whomever is involved.

  1. Alert and enthuse your fellow office champions that you're running the office Secret Santa this year and if they want in they need to sign up. Include dates, the basic rules, the budget that has been set (about a fiver) and that it'll be the best thing they've done all year!
  2. Secret Santa gift
  3. With your list of participants secured write all their names on slips of paper and bash them into a Crimbo hat. Either circulate yourself with the hat around the office or get everyone together to draw in secret the name of their Secret Santa recipient.
  4. Once the presents are bought and the day of reveal has arrived have everyone put the wrapped gifts in a pile and gather around.
  5. Unwrap! With everyone gathered together, have each person unwrap their present, either at the same time if you are particularly busy, or each in turn if you've got more time.
  6. Sit back and enjoy the successful culmination of the best office Secret Santa your colleagues have ever experienced thanks to your organisational talents and Christmas cheer.

Optional sixth rule: at the point of unwrapping the presents you might want to allow the disclosure of Secret Santa identities, so that everyone can discuss the gifts, the reasons behind their purchases, and how everyone did.

Secret Santa Ideas

How To Do Secret Santa

As far as Secret Santa official rules go the only real one is that the gift-givers remain anonymous. Doing so makes the whole event far more successful and exciting for all involved. But the number one thing to remember, of course, is have fun! Here are a few more hints and tips to help your Secret Santa run smoothly.

Dress up your own Santa! Yes, we're serious, looking like Santa or one of Santa's little helpers during the name-drawing is always a winner.

When gathering the names of those who want to take part double check you've got everyone. And if you can apply some gentle pressure to the undecided to make the number of participants even, it helps things run a little smoother.

Hopefully this guide has given you all you need to know about running your work Secret Santa. We wish you the very best of luck. Merry Christmas!