What is it about Secret Santa that causes me to break out in a cold sweat? Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas giving and receiving as much as the next sane adult, but it’s just that my Secret Santa track record has been pretty woeful to date.
“What can possibly go wrong?” I hear you ask.
There are only two variations on the Secret Santa theme. In the first you buy a gift but you have no idea who will receive it. It’s all meant to be very jolly and spontaneous. Here’s how it played out for me one year. At the last minute, in a frenzied mall dash, I bought four toilet rolls printed with cheerful Father Christmas faces. I had a recipient in mind – a terrific Kiwi bloke with the best sense of humour ever. I knew he’d love them. Sod’s Law, on the day and contrary to type, he chose the littlest gift, leaving my toilet rolls to be selected by a desperately private, terribly refined English teacher. There was a palpable awkwardness to the whole event.
The other way is to draw a name out of a hat and buy a gift with a particular person in mind. This should work better, but you absolutely NEVER get the person you could buy for most easily. The problem here is that if the gift is less than perfect, you don’t have an excuse. Twice in my life under this system I have received those brightly striped socks with individual toe compartments and I have no idea what it is about me that inspires this choice.
Two types of gift buyers really score at the Secret Santa tradition – those who buy gifts at the sales in January (that’s right, the same January that comes right after December) and keep them the whole year in readiness – and those who make their own Secret Santa gifts. These talented individuals make it all seem so easy and have no need of the many library resources that could help with creating your own Christmas gifts should you be that way inclined. My favourites are Handcarved Christmas (as in “thanks, but no thanks”) and Last-minute knitted gifts which seems like a complete oxymoron to me.
Still, only once did I nearly reduce a gift recipient to tears of frustration and that was the time we were asked to write a little cryptic poem about the gift. The idea being that you could only open the gift when you had worked out what it was. This went to my head in a very unattractive way. My poor gift receiver couldn’t work what I was getting at and in the end viewed my carefully selected bright green, froggy-shaped watering-can with something approaching quiet despair.
Now you know why I have such a nervous reaction to Secret Santa. But be warned, I’m out there buying three of them this year. Be afraid, be very afraid!