Secret Santa

By Sharon Naylor

October 30, 2014 4 min read

You may know this gift-giving tradition by the names secret Santa, white elephant or Kriss Kringle; it's the fun and festive game of choosing one recipient from your family, circle of friends, book club members or work friends and giving that person a Christmas gift.

In a secret Santa, the game may go on for weeks, with the gift giver secretly doing nice things for his chosen person, such as leaving little notes or poems and tiny gifts or candies. Then, on the date specified for the secret Santa reveal, the recipient gets to open a special gift to find out who their secret Santa has been.

A white elephant can be organized a bit differently, such as attendees each bringing one wrapped gift to a dinner, the gift being tagged with a number, and then everyone drawing a number from a hat to see which gift they will unwrap. This plan, says blogger The Gracious Host, allows everyone a gift, even if a guest doesn't show up for the dinner.

People have added creative twists throughout the years, making secret Santa even more fun. Here are some variations to consider:

--Age groups. Have a separate secret Santa game for children and adults. This lets the little ones pick out a present and plan those pre-party hints and niceties for someone their own age.

--Autogenerated lists. Use a Kriss Kringle generating website online to automatically distribute gift recipient names, keeping things anonymous for everyone.

--Themes. Give your secret Santa-esque gifts a different theme each year, such as edibles, wearables, garden, kitchen, board games and so on. Themes make things easier. Book clubs usually agree to give books to one another, for instance.

--Regifting. To make the game budget-friendly to all, let your group know that the gift theme this year is to bring items they already have around the house and would like to regift or repurpose.

--Steal-it Santa. Rather than open your gift, you can opt to "steal" the gift of someone who opened their gift before you. You then hand that person your unopened gift and see if you made a good choice. This variation leads to loud fun. The Gracious Host says that if you're in the middle of the gift-opening lineup, steal the second-best gift, since others will be aiming for the very best gift in the group.

--Donations. Create a giving component by having each person in the group make a donation to a cause in lieu of buying a present to wrap. Set some ground rules if you wish. Rule out donations to political groups or other controversial organizations. Tell your group, for instance, to stick to children's or pet charities.

--Guess who. You might opt to keep the identity of each giver secret and have the recipient try to guess.

--Fun from afar. If you have faraway friends or relatives, invite them to join in the fun via Skype.

To keep your participants happy, set a price range, such as $15 to $20 for the gift, and players can opt to give additional little treats if they wish throughout the course of the game.

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