What Is Secret Santa? And How Is It Played?

what is secret santa

Christmas is one of the best times to give and receive gifts. There’s something special about exchanging gifts and unwrapping presents – it’s a fun time for all.

To add to the excitement of discovering what’s inside your Christmas boxes, why not try the Christmas tradition called Secret Santa?

What is Secret Santa?

Secret Santa is a method of gift exchange wherein each participant draws a random name and buys a gift for that person.

In some ways it’s similar to other gift exchange games like Yankee Swap, Kris Kringle, White Elephant, Pollyanna or Dirty Santa but, in the game of Secret Santa, rather than buying a gift that could potentially suit anyone in the group or party, you’re actually given a particular person to buy for.

You become that person’s “Secret Santa” and the person who picked your name becomes your Secret Santa. Just like the way Santa Clause’s identity remains a mystery to the public, your Secret Santa should also keep his identity hidden until the time you exchange the gifts.

After receiving and opening your present, you must guess who you think your Secret Santa is. Finding out who picked your name while hiding your own identity as someone’s Secret Santa makes this Christmas tradition exciting and enjoyable between families, friends, and peers. It’s also a great way to celebrate Christmas in the workplace or office Christmas party.

A Brief Origin Of Secret Santa

The famous known story of how Secret Santa started is the one related to Larry Dean Stewart, an American philanthropist.

He is said to be the “original Secret Santa” as he began the idea of giving gifts anonymously during the Christmas season, (sounds a bit like playing Elf By Stealth!). He also secretly donated large amounts of money to people in different parts of America.

After staying hidden for more than 25 years, he finally revealed himself as the mysterious Secret Santa in 2006. However, others say that this game was derived from the Scandinavian gift-giving tradition where people knock and throw a present on someone’s door. They run away after leaving the gift, making their identity unknown.

how is secret santa played

How To Play Secret Santa

 So after knowing the overview of this game, let’s move on to the rules. How is Secret Santa played? Well, it’s as easy as one, two, three. Yes, listed below are three main steps in how to play this fun event.

1. Writing And Drawing of Names

A few days or a week before the planned party or gift giving event, all the names of participants should be written on separate pieces of paper. Roll the papers and drop them in a box, hat or bowl. Each player should randomly draw one name and keep it a secret.

Or else, it’s not Secret Santa anymore. If it so happens that a person got their own name, they have to return the paper to the box and draw another one.

2. Making Wish Lists

Wish lists help your Secret Santa in choosing what present to give you. The list can be written on a piece of paper that is available for everyone to view. This way, all players will see everyone’s wish list, and so the mystery about who picked who still remains.

You can mention specific items if you want your Secret Santa to give you the exact thing you want. Or you can also write in a general manner if you want your gift to be a surprise.

Making a wish list for secret Santa is not an essential part of the process – you can just let each “Santa” choose what they think would be a good gift for their recipient if everybody prefers to play it that way.

3. Gift Exchange

This is probably the most exciting part. On the day of the party or event, bring your well-chosen, wrapped present with the receiver’s name on it.

Of course, you should have a sneaky way to get it into the group of gifts, or else others will know who you picked. Then, each player will take his or her corresponding present, open it, and try to guess who it is from.

fun ways to do secret santa

Secret Santa Game Variations

There are many variations of this game’s rules. Each of them is designed to make the already fun game extra enjoyable. Here are some of the unique ideas that give twists to the Secret Santa tradition.

Weekly Secret Santa

Predicting the identity of your Secret Santa can be quite difficult with a one-time giving of gifts. So, some workplaces or groups of friends like to play their Secret Santa or Kris Kringle game on a weekly basis.

In this variation, the Secret Santa covertly leaves the receiver weekly presents. It’s like having a secret admirer. The price and theme of the weekly presents are often agreed upon by all participants.

For example, you can decide to give “something sweet” or “something tiny” this week. This goes on until the day of the Christmas party. Others even do this on a daily basis.

Revealing Without Guessing

Another variation of this game excludes the guessing part. Instead, the participants reveal themselves by directly giving the gift to the person they picked. The on-the-spot reaction of the receiver as his Secret Santa moves to hand him the gift is the thing that makes this idea fun.

Online Secret Santa

If you want to exchange gifts with some friends or relatives that are miles away from you, no need to worry. You can play Secret Santa by using some name generation tools online. Sending gifts can be done by shipping them to the receiver’s address.

As for the revealing part, you can meet through a video chat, or you can just attach a letter on the gift and reveal your identity there.

So, if your workplace or family have decided to do a “Secret Santa” this year, there’s nothing to worry about. Choose a great gift for the person you’ve been allocated to be the Secret Santa for, wrap and label your gift and hide it amongst the other gifts so nobody sees which gift you brought along.

Then sit back and enjoy whatever gift your Secret Santa brought along for you!

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