Secret Santa

Find "Last minute knitted gifts" in BiblioCommonsWhat 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!

14 thoughts on “Secret Santa

  1. Robyn 8 December 2011 / 1:47 pm

    Secret Santa was nearly the cause the disbanding of my book club. After we had exchanged and unwrapped our gifts one of our number, under the influence of far too much Chardonnay, suggested that we swap them with our neighbour on the left. Cue tight lips and hurt feelings as the box of chocolates with the kitten on the lid, specially selected for the cat lover, went to someone who didn’t like chocolates or cats. And so the dissatisfaction went on around the table. We got over it eventually. I think.

    The team I work with now doesn’t spend money on gimcrack novelties. Instead they give it to charity; in past years they’ve bought a chicken or two for a family in Tanzania, this year it’s going to the City Mission. Perhaps you could make this suggestion to your Secret Santa mates Roberta?

    • robertafsmith 8 December 2011 / 1:54 pm

      Now that is a very good idea. Let anyone look crestfallen over their gift this year and I will suggest it!

  2. jacobirwin92 8 December 2011 / 2:43 pm

    I just did a Secret Santa not so long ago for my work staff.
    We did a rendition that we called “Dirty Santa”. (I know, I know. But it means “playing dirty” not… you know.)

    Anyway! The idea is that you buy one, non-gender specific gift for an agreed upon price (our limit was $15), and wrap it up. Then at the party, everyone draws a number. #1 picks a present from under the tree, unwraps it and shows everyone. Then #2 goes and has the option to either pick a new present from under the tree OR they can opt to “steal” #1’s present.

    If this happens, #1 picks a new present from under the tree and #3 goes ahead and picks from the tree or can choose to steal #1 or #2’s present. This continues until everyone has a present.

    I thought this was a great idea because it added a lot of fun to the idea of Secret Santa. As well, anyone could steal a present that they genuinely wanted. Everyone has different interests, and when you’re choosing for a wide variety of people, especially when you’re doing it non-gender specific, a lot of people end up not liking what they choose. The addition of stealing was fun and innovative. I ended up loving my gift (an electronic “piggy bank” and some chocolate) even though I got stolen from at least twice!

    If you’re ever unsure about Secret Santa, I highly suggest this version. It was very fun, and I don’t think anyone was dissatisfied with their gift (because, let’s face it, most people chose to steal from someone, lol).

    • Michael Aitken 8 December 2011 / 4:05 pm

      I know “dirty Santa” as “Greed” – terrific fun and there is always one present fought to the death over. Great fun for minimum outlay.

    • robertafsmith 8 December 2011 / 4:07 pm

      Sounds as if you have to be sober and very on the ball for “Dirty Santa” to work. Nicely interactive though!

  3. JaneS 8 December 2011 / 3:37 pm

    Have tried the ‘dirty santa’ idea with work colleagues – all adults – with mixed results. As I ended up with a child’s ‘sheriff set’ it didn’t exactly give me warm fuzzies. Although, I could have ended up with the fresh whole coconut……. Ah well, there’s always next time.

    • robertafsmith 8 December 2011 / 4:11 pm

      Was it fun though? As in the journey being more important than the destination kind of fun?

  4. jacobirwin92 8 December 2011 / 6:36 pm

    I thought it was really fun! There is always that one gift that everyone is trying to steal, lol. It’s a lot of fun, and I really do recommend it to everyone. 🙂

  5. valerienl 8 December 2011 / 7:52 pm

    I have organised Secret Santa a few times. It should be simple. Right? Everyone who wants to be involved writes their name on a piece of paper and drops it in Secret Santa’s hat. When all the names are in, you draw out a name, buy the gift, wrap it up and stick a name tag on it. You think it’s easy? What do you do when someone doesn’t label the gift and you end up saying “Well, you don’t have a gift and this one doesn’t have a name on it so it must be for you” or all the names get pulled out of the hat and one person decides not to go the dinner and not buy a gift so you end up saying “I’m sorry, the santa sack is empty maybe your gift is still in the office” So why am I organising it this year? Simple. Third time lucky.
    Good luck with SS this year and what’s wrong with toe-socks.

    • robertafsmith 8 December 2011 / 9:55 pm

      Super wide-spread toes is what’s wrong Valerie and that’s only for starters.

  6. Allison 8 December 2011 / 8:59 pm

    Hmm, now I know why this is a practice that’s never taken off in South Africa. Well, at least not in my circle. But wait! Maybe there are secret Secret Santa going on all around me and I’m unaware of it. Now, should I be glad or do I feel an attack of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) coming on . .

    • robertafsmith 8 December 2011 / 9:52 pm

      You are right, now I come to think of it, I never did it in good old S of A. We could do one when I come over if you like!!!

  7. susanatccl 19 December 2011 / 10:05 am

    Ive just dropped my Secret Santa present in the big red box in the workroom… It’s been staring at me for days now,begging me to ignore the ‘no peek’ sign. Hope I can manage another 24 hours. Better not get caught redhanded like Bad Santa last night on TV…

    • robertafsmith 19 December 2011 / 11:25 am

      I have peeked, but not in a creepy way! More in a “Is it all happening?” way and it is looking good!

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