The ultimate guide to Secret Santa

  • Shikha Kumar
  • Updated: Dec 05, 2015 21:29 IST
(Photo: Shutterstock)

It’s December. That means it’s Secret Santa season. And your extended family, workplace, your overactive alumni group on WhatsApp, and pretty much everyone else will possibly be organising some kind of gift exchange.

As you revel in the December nip, sip on mugs of hot cocoa and put up shiny baubles on your Christmas tree, here’s everything you need to know about the fun Secret Santa tradition – including how to ace it.

Secret, what?

The Secret Santa system lets you exchange presents within a closed group of friends or strangers – but covertly, so no one knows who their gift-giving Santa might be. Great fun ensues as people try to guess before all is revealed at a later date. Start by putting participants’ names into a bowl, shuffle and get the people to pick. You’re Santa to the one you’ve picked. Don’t worry, someone will be yours too.

Who started this?

There are umpteen origin theories, but the term itself can be traced to the American philanthropist, Larry Dean Stewart. When Stewart was broke, he became the beneficiary of random acts of kindness from strangers, like a free dinner and help finding a job. As he overcame his difficulties, Stewart anonymously began handing out small amounts of cash to people in need, earning him the nickname Secret Santa.

The tradition has grown since, and it was only in 2006, months before his death, that Stewart revealed himself, hoping to inspire others.

Taking it online

If your friends and family aren’t interested (who are these stingy monsters?) the Web is only too willing to play. Register for Twitter’s Secret Santa to anonymously exchange presents with other Twitter users. You can be a part of @MumbaiSanta, @DelhiSanta, @ChennaiSanta or @BengaluruSanta.

Reddit has redditgifts, the giant annual online gift exchange. Nearly 90,000 people from 160 countries have participated in the past.

Game, set, match

Once you’ve been assigned your match, here’s what to keep in mind. If a budget has been decided, honour it. Also, pick dispatch and reveal dates a few days before Christmas so you don’t encounter vacation or courier hiccups. And always make your gifts special. Talk to your recipient’s friends, scan their work or social media profiles and become a pro stalker (the non-creepy kind!) so you know what they’ll like. Send pregifts if you want. And obviously, keep it secret until the end.

Be a co-conspirator

Looking to change things up? Try Conspiracy Santa. In this twist, an entire group gets together to select a gift for one person, without that person’s knowledge. Multiple such conspiracies and interactions brew in the days leading up to December 25, through emails or apps. The collaborative nature makes it a great option for Christmas celebrations at the workplace.

Do not give...

... generic presents. Secret Santa exchanges are about the receiver as much as the giver. So avoid:

* Key chains. We know they’re souvenirs from your last holiday.

* Wine. Find out if the person likes to drink in the first place.

* Mugs. Ghastly and impersonal.

* Flash drives. Ugh!

* Candles. Double ugh!

* Vouchers. So unimaginative.

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From HT Brunch, December 6

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