- Sophie &Friends
I vividly remember playing Secret Santa as a young adult. It might have been one of the best “grown-up” Christmases ever. It can be played with any medium to large sized group of people - co-workers, a youth group, scout troop, sports team, etc.
For those of you who have never even heard of Secret Santa, it’s basically a fun way to celebrate the holidays with a group of friends or acquiantances without anyone spending a lot of money on gifts. In fact, the intention of Secret Santa, as I was taught anyway, was to remove all feelings of obligation for buying everyone a present. The rules state you are only allowed to gift 1 person.
When I played, my co-workers were an amazingly creative team of writers and artists. Consequently, our Secret Santa was off the hook, which I’ll explain later.
How to Play
The way I learned to play was this: Everyone wrote their name on a slip of paper and placed it in a box. Participants were given several days to sign up and no one was obligated to do so. At the end of the allotted time, our Head Elf, who organized the entire thing, randomly paired up people. She told me later that she began by comparing the names in the box with an alphabetical list of employees. She marked the list as to who was or wasn’t participating. Then she put the names back in the box and one-by-one pulled names and paired them, checking them off the list as she did. This way she was able to make sure no one got their own name. The next day each participant received a secret note informing them of their recipient. This process of course can be simplified by putting everyone’s name in a hat and letting them pick. If they pick their own name, they put it back and pick again.
This again is from my experience, which bear in mind, was many years ago. A maximum price of $1.00 per day was set for any “clue” gifts. The gift price of $5.00 was strictly enforced (I told you it was some time ago...chose a price that is reasonable, but not excessive, perhaps $20). For those who chose not to participate, the company purchased a small gift. No one was allowed to buy gifts for anyone other than their assigned person. These rules ensured that only one gift was given to any one person.
The Fun Begins
From the day we received our names, which in our case was 10 days before the company Christmas party, each participant was left to their own devices. As I mentioned, this was an incredibly creative group, and so the clues, and sometimes the gifts, were amazing. Different people employed different techniques:
The “How Well I Know You” Santa - This Santa leaves little clue gifts that inform the recipient that they know them well or have a confidential informant. Gifts included things like their favorite treats or something they use everyday, like hand sanitizer or a pencil sharpener.
The “Poet” Santa - This Santa leaves little poems that might or might not provide clues as to who they are. Each day might hold another clue - their hair color, their favorite color, their shoe size…
The “Add It All Up” Santa - This Santa delivers one of something that will eventually become a whole, such as a flower each day and a vase as the final gift at the party. In our case, each flower came with a card with one letter on it. At the end, the letters spelled the secret Santa’s name.
The “Stalker” Santa - Gifts show up in the places that only the recipient goes, or appear when the recipient leaves and comes back from meeting or something. This Santa is either very aware of their recipient, or has many helpers.
The “Homemade” Santa - Each day brings a new little home made gift - a cookie in a CD sleeve, hot chocolate mix in a hand painted mug, an ornament for your tree.
The “Punny” Santa - Each day brings a gift with a little pun on the top. For example, a box of Oreo Double Stuffs with a tag that reads, “hope you are too “stuffed” from lunch to enjoy these cookies”.
The “Special Delivery” Santa - This santa engages a different “elf” each day to hand deliver their gift. Sometime they even subject their elf to dressing in costume.
On the Day
On the actual day of the party, all Secret Santas deliver their wrapped gift to the Head Elf. The gifts are placed under a tree or just around the party space. Each Santa had been instructed to put a card inside the present revealing their identity. During the party, we all sat in a circle, and the Head Elf handed out the presents. Each recipient declared who they thought their Santa was. We all took turns opening our gifts and finding out if our guess was correct. It was fun to see people’s reactions, not only to their gifts, but to their secret Santas. It made for a very special event.
Bea Bea, an unhappy little elf
Stay tuned for my next blog in which I’ll give you dozens of ideas for easy and inexpensive gifts that you could use not only for Secret Santa, but for family and friends.
Here’s hoping your Holiday is filled with secrets and surprises!