7 Ultimate ideas to play Secret Santa with a twist

7 Ultimate ideas to play Secret Santa with a twist
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

Secret Santa is a popular holiday activity. You can play with family, friends, classmates, coworkers, and even online communities. The rules are simple: you draw the name of another player out of the hat (or use a quick online generator) without revealing whose name you drew. Now, you become a Secret Santa and prepare a present for another player secretly.

The game gives a touch of mystery to a traditional gift exchange. However, if you play Secret Santa every year, you might want to give the game a twist and try something new. To help you host a memorable gift exchange, we have gathered the popular alternatives to traditional Secret Santa. Try all of them during the holiday season!

7 Popular ways to play Secret Santa

1.       Online Secret Santa

2.       Themed Secret Santa

3.       White Elephant

4.       Secret Casino

5.       Pass the Present

6.       Conspiracy Santa

7.       Secret Santa with Clues

How to make your gift exchange a success?

Online Secret Santa

Traditionally, Secret Santa is played in person. All players write their names on paper and then draw names out of the hat. This method has its disadvantages: players can lose the paper with the name and forget for whom they should buy a gift. Also, people often feel overwhelmed as they don’t know what the person whose name they drew wants to receive for Christmas.  

Give your gift exchange a modern twist and play using an online Secret Santa generator such as MySanta. You can add players by email or send a special invite link. After that, the program draws names and each player prepares a gift for the assigned person. In MySanta, each participant can create a wishlist and chat with their Santa anonymously. Plus, you can monitor the game progress and see who hasn’t prepared a present yet, so that everyone gets a gift.

Themed Secret Santa

Secret Santa is a timeless classic, and often all you need is to narrow down the gift options. Use a theme for the holiday gift exchange to let people get creative and share unique gifts. For example, if all your friends are passionate about board games, choose a Game Night gift theme and encourage them to exchange helpful gifts for organizing a game night.

Here are some ideas for gift themes to get you started:

·         Practical presents – give presents people can make good use of in the office, at home, or outdoors.

·         Friends/The Big Bang Theory/Harry Potter gift exchange – prepare gifts related to your popular TV show.

·         Homemade gifts – cookies, lemonade, knit scarves, painted mugs, and custom calendars.

·         Gifts that start with a T letter.

·         Tech wonderland – exchange gadgets or accessories.

·         Funny gifts that will make everyone laugh.

The choice is up to you! Use a theme that is likely to appeal to your friends or colleagues and expect a truly extraordinary gift exchange.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.com

White Elephant

To play White Elephant, you don’t need to draw names and buy personalized gifts. All participants bring wrapped gifts at a set price (say, $30) and put them on the table. You need to choose a present that most people in the room would like. Players buy gifts secretly so that others don’t know who bought each present.

All participants draw numbers and take presents in turn. You have two options: take a new gift or “steal” the opened one from another player. The player whose gift is stolen either takes a wrapped gift or also “steals” the present from someone. Players can steal gifts only once or twice, and the game is over when everyone has a gift. The last player usually ends up with his favorite gift.

Secret Casino

Add a competitive edge to your festivities and play Secret Santa casino! In this game, no name-drawing is involved as well. All participants bring gifts of the same value (such as $25) and also contribute to a money pot. After that, everyone has three options: a) choose any gift from the pile, b) attempt to win the jackpot, or c) put the name in the hat and try to win all unchosen gifts.

All gifts should be wrapped to maintain the mystery. When the participants have chosen their gifts from the table, the remaining players draw names to win the jackpot and unchosen gifts.

Pass the present

This is another timeless holiday game you can play in the office, at school, or with friends. The name speaks for itself: everyone brings an unlabeled gift that most players would like to have. All gifts should be of the same value to keep the exchange equal.

At the party, all players sit (or stand) in the circle and take a gift. This gift is passed around the circle when the music is played, and when it stops, the player who holds a gift keeps it and steps out from the circle. The game continues until everyone has a present.

There is another variation of this game: all players hold a gift, and the host reads a short story. Every time they read “left” or “right” all gifts are moved in that direction. Thus, when the story is over, every players has a gift.

Conspiracy Santa

This Secret Santa game is great for a small group of students or coworkers. All group members conspire to choose a gift for one person. Players start an email thread or a secret chat to communicate and pick a perfect present together. The number of such “conspiracies” is the same as the number of presents, and everyone gets a gift for the entire team.

Choosing gifts helps people bond and learn more about each other, so you can play it even if participants don’t know each other well.

Secret Santa with clues

This game is similar to traditional Secret Santa. Each player brings a gift for the assigned person and puts it under the tree. Along with the gift, each guest also brings a note with clues. Based on these clues, participants try to guess who their Secret Santa is.

To make gift exchange fun for everyone, avoid obvious clues (such as the first letter of your name, your job title, or where you live). Instead, try to use rhymes, use your gift as a clue, or use Christmas references to keep the guessing festive.

Here are the examples of clues for Secret Santa in the office:

·         I make sure our tasks align like stars, Efficiency is where I've set my bars.

·         The number 15 is special to me, Find out why and you’ll have the key.

·         I secretly love a dash of spice, But in the office, I'm quiet and nice.

Image: MySanta.co

How to make your gift exchange a success?

Follow the gift etiquette

Set the budget for gifts (say, $30) and try to stay within this amount. Choose a deadline for gifts so that everyone buys a present in advance and avoid delivery issues during holidays. If you play with coworkers or people you don’t know well, avoid personal gifts such as lingerie, perfume, or personal care products. The gift exchange should be fun and not embarrassing for anyone.

Explain the rules to everyone

There is the possibility that some participants don’t know how to do Secret Santa. If you organize the game, make sure everyone knows the rules, otherwise the exchange can be spoiled. All players should keep their identity secret and not reveal it until the presents are open. Encourage the participants to buy gifts in advance and stay within the limit.

Use wishlists

In the MySanta online generator, every player can create a wishlist and specify what they want for Christmas. Thus, people can get exactly what they want as a gift. Each Santa can see the wishlist of their assigned player and buy a perfect gift for them, or chat with the giftee anonymously to learn more about their gift preferences.

Add exceptions

If some people in your office or a friendly circle don’t get along well, set exceptions in the game so that they do not give presents to each other. For example, in our MySanta generator, you can set as many exceptions as you need.

Be grateful

Even if you are not super excited about the gift from your Santa, thank them sincerely anyway. Your Santa poured in time and effort to select the present and put you in a cheerful mood. So, be thankful and keep the holiday spirit going!

There are many ways to play Secret Santa a bit differently and make the gift exchange more enjoyable for everyone. You can play these games in the office, at school, at home, or with friends. And, if organizing the game for a large group seems overwhelming, try our online generator. In it, you can set the budget, the deadline, track gifts, and more.