Secret Santa Gift Exchange
A Secret Santa gift exchange is ideal for groups, schools,
neighborhoods, and organizations that wish to swap gifts for
Christmas but not break the budget. If you've never taken part
in one, you're in for a treat. It's not an original idea but it
certainly adds a little fun and mystery to the season.
Planning one isn't difficult if you know the basics. There are a
few variations you can use to customize the exchange to suit the
participants. The keys to success are a good poker face and an
entire group that can keep a secret.
Also known as a Pollyanna or Kris Kringle exchange, the Secret
Santa gift exchange involves putting names in a hat (or jar, or
container) and having each person draw one name. Everyone will
be a Secret Santa to someone as well as a recipient. This works
well in large families when it's not practical to buy individual
gifts for everyone.
This scheme can be very simple or quite involved. For example,
you can use it for one Christmas gift a year or you can spread
it out over several days or weeks and give (and receive) several
gifts on chosen days. All gifts should contain a gift card or
tag that states the name of the recipient only and left at a
Any anonymous gift exchange should be completely voluntary and
you need to respect those who do not wish to participate. Rules
should be stated clearly for everyone who opted in to avoid any
confusion. They can be stated on a party invitation, in a
letter, or delivered in the form of a Secret Santa poem. Types
of gifts, price limits, and whether or not clues are allowed
should also be included. You may also allow everyone to create a
wish list to give others gift ideas.
Gifts should be appropriate and this needs to be clear,
especially if your group is not close family members. Planning a
Secret Santa exchange for the office could be risky because
someone could choose a present that may insult the recipient.
Intended or not, don't let them have the opportunity if you
think there's any chance of this happening. Instead, have a
trusted person keep a list of the names drawn to keep everyone
honest. Or, forgo the office gift exchange altogether and just
pass the hat to buy a nice gift for the boss.
"Mum" is the word, really. When children are involved, it may
not be easy for them to keep a secret. If you're doing this at
school, you will need to convince them not to tell anyone whose
name they drew. This is probably a situation that would not
benefit from clues before the party because they may offer ones
that are too obvious, which will spoil the fun.
Everyone's secrecy skills are all for naught if they're observed
bringing in their gift(s). For this reason, you will need to
designate an area to drop off gifts. The area will be for this
purpose only and should be off-limits for socializing. Tell
participants to conceal presents in a bag to keep them from
being associated with it. If the Secret Santa exchange will be a
series of gifts delivered to the recipient, it will be crucial
to conduct covert operations and not be observed by anyone.
After creating suspense, it is nice to have a "reveal" at the
holiday party. Before the reveal, you can allow clues to be
given when multiple gifts are given over a period of time or one
small clue for an individual gift. In the end, it's nice to
discover who your Secret Santa is. Consider making a game of it
and allowing questions that will offer additional hints or have
the game be the only source of clues. Groups that meet
periodically may enjoy an occasional "clue day" that will add to
If you're into charity, consider choosing a disadvantaged family
with kids and showering them with practical gifts that will help
them get through the winter. Make this a group effort. Scatter
the gifts throughout the month of December, leaving no clues.
For some families, it may be difficult to accept but rest
assured, they'll be grateful in times of need. If you plan on
doing this, I recommend keeping Secret Santa a secret. This will
prevent gossip and help the family avoid any pride issues or