One of the most important elements to a successful Secret Santa Gift Exchange is planning. And I’m going to save you a bottle’s worth of Tylenol by giving you tips to make that happen. Even if you’ve never participated in this rite of winter, follow these suggestions and tricks and you too will be known as “the elf who brought Christmas back to [insert your community of friends].”
Why take my advice? Of course, you don’t have to … just know that I love Christmas and as a former professional Christmas elf, I’ve successfully pulled off more Secret Santa Gift Exchanges than you can shake a sprig of mistletoe at—and they’ve all been a hit. In short, I know what-the-holly I’m talking about. I’ll only cover the major points. You can fill in the blanks as needed. So grab a peppermint mocha, class is now in session.
What exactly is this Secret Santa Gift Exchange I speak of?
Secret Santa is a seasonal tradition in which participants draw the name of another participant to whom they anonymously give a gift (or series of gifts) over a set period of time. The identity of the gift giver isn’t revealed until the last day of exchanges.
Timing and Duration
Plan your reveal party to take place on the last day your group of participants will meet before Christmas break/vacation. The length of the gift exchange should be no longer than 1 to 5 days max. Anything more than 5 days is burdensome. Set parameters for 1 gift a day or only one final gift. You know the folks you’re dealing with and their level of excitement the gift exchange, do what best suits them.
- Get your invites/notices out early to determine the number of participants with the necessary details— a) start and end dates, b) location and time of final reveal, c) a firm RSVP date, and d) price limit for gift. Again, go with what best suits the participants.
- If your gift exchange will run longer than a day, invite those who might not want to take part in the actual purchasing of gifts to be elves—folks who anonymously deliver gifts to those participating in the exchange. This one inclusive move makes the experience a win for everyone and lessens the likelihood of an identity being mistakenly revealed ahead of time.
- Participants RSVP by writing their names on their all important Wish List which will be drawn later. (See below.)
- Remind everyone that their identity is to remain a secret until the final gift exchange.
- At the final reveal, one participant begins by guessing the identity of their Secret Santa, once that person is identified the participant’s Secret Santa delivers their final gift. That gift giver then guesses the identity of their Secret Santa and so on until all Secret Santas identities are revealed.
BONUS: The Wish List
This item right here will take your gif exchange to next level: The Wish List (a list of likes, dislikes, and favorite things) takes the guesswork out of the gift giving. Don’t think of it as a demand list, think of it as a set of parameters to work within that’ll make choosing gift(s) a lot easier! And be sure to put your own spin the items you purchase. For example, if your person likes toy soldiers and chocolate, combine the two and snag a toy soldier made of chocolate. Be creative!
What goes on The Wish List? I gotcha covered. I used the one pictured here while I was with the touring companies of the Christmas Spectacular. The reason for the seemingly odd questions (like age, city of residence, etc.) is because participants were of all ages (including child actors) and worked in various capacities within the show. With a company of 60+ people, sometimes participants had no idea who they were buying gifts for. The Wish List gave everyone the same advantage in buying for their recipient.
Feel free to use The Wish List pictured as inspiration for your own OR download a more generic printer-friendly version here. After you hand out the blank forms participants, you’re pretty done! (Be sure to give people enough time to do their shopping.)
The Tinsel on the Tree (Think Icing on the Cake)
The best Secret Santa Gift Exchanges coincide with a party, a meal, or something along those lines. It’s not mandatory, but a gift exchange and a holiday gathering go together like booze and eggnog to the amp up the Christmas vibe. Be sure to invite any elves who delivered present.
Secret Santa’s Coming to Town
Like the song says, “Better watch out, better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why,” — there’s still time to pull off a successful Secret Santa Gift Exchange. With these tips and tricks you and your compadres are practically guaranteed a jolly holiday!
Check out this article for tips on rocking your game as a Secret Santa participant!
Love one another.