How to do Secret Santa in the office?

How to do Secret Santa in the office?
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Secret Santa is a beloved holiday tradition that can liven up your office and get everyone in the Christmas spirit. It brings even remote teams together and creates a sense of mystery even for accomplished professionals. Plus, it is a great way to save on gift expenses – instead of preparing a bulk of generic gifts, you get a thoughtful, personalized present for one colleague.

Organizing a Secret Santa in your company might seem challenging, but worry not. We will share tips and insights to make your corporate gift exchange exciting no matter the number of players – 5, 50, or 500.

1.       What is Secret Santa and how to play?

2.       How to organize Secret Santa in the office?

3.       Secret Santa invitation email for colleagues

4.       How to play Secret Santa with coworkers virtually?

5.       How to exchange presents?

6.       What to give your coworker for Secret Santa

7.       Gift exchange etiquette for office parties

8.       Tips and recommendations for a smooth Secret Santa experience

What is Secret Santa and how to play?

Secret Santa is a popular gift exchange game. The rules are simple: everyone draws names from a hat to find out for whom they will buy a gift. Each Secret Santa should get a present secretly and not reveal their identity until the gift exchange day.

There are many variations of Secret Santa gift exchange, such as White Elephant, Casino Santa, Conspiracy Santa, and more. Read our guide to learn how to play Secret Santa with a twist and liven up your gift exchange party.

Did you know? The last year’s survey revealed that 84% of people who celebrate Christmas participate in gift exchanges during holidays. 54% of them participate in Secret Santa exchanges and 48% prefer White Elephant.

How to organize Secret Santa in the office?

There are two main ways to play Secret Santa: in person and with an online generator.

Play in person

Doing Secret Santa in person is easy and takes just a few minutes. All participants write their names on paper and then draw names from the hat. Each player can write a few gift ideas next to their name (i.e. sci-fi books, kitchen tools) to help their Santa choose a gift.

However, this method has disadvantages. If one player draws his own name, the draw starts over. Plus, some people can lose a piece of paper or forget for whom they should buy a gift. To make the gift exchange more organized and ensure that everyone receives a gift, it is better to use an online organizer.

Use a Secret Santa generator

Traditionally, Secret Santa is played in person. Yet, if you have 9+ employees, it will be difficult to organize everyone. Plus, many companies have remote employees, and it is next to impossible to gather everyone in one place.

The solution? Use a Secret Santa generator, for example, MySanta. With an online game organizer, you can invite as many people as you like, and the results of the draw are saved.

MySanta app: draw names, create wishlists, chat with your Santa anonymously, and track game progress. Image:

Here’s how to organize a successful Secret Santa exchange using an online generator:

1.       Plan early. Christmas holidays are hectic, so suggest playing Secret Santa a month or two in advance. If you announce the exchange two weeks before Christmas, most people will not have the time to buy gifts or will be busy.

2.       Discuss the details. Choose the date and place of the gift exchange and set a budget for presents. Maybe, you’ll want to exchange themed gifts, such as homemade gifts or funny presents. Decide on the date when all the presents should be ready.

3.       Start a new game. Invite players by email or share an invite link in Slack or any other messenger. Remember that participation in the game must be voluntary. If some people don’t want to join, it’s best to host the game without them.

4.       Draw names. With an online generator, you can draw names in one click, and the results of the draw are saved. Plus, you can set exceptions if some colleagues have tense relationships.

5.       Fill out wishlists. Each player can specify what they would like as a gift or add items to their wishlist. Thus, the gift selection process becomes quick and effortless for every Santa.

6.       Let the party begin! On the gift exchange day, everyone brings the wrapped presents. Players open presents and try to guess who their Secret Santa is. Add clues to puzzle the recipient and make the guessing fun for everyone!

The advantages of using an online generator

·         Play with the entire department. Or, organize a companywide Secret Santa to bring people from different departments together. The number of players is not limited.

·         Set exceptions. If Joe and July don’t get along well, set exceptions and they will not give presents to each other.

·         Everything is recorded. You can see that Mike and Amina haven’t bought presents yet, and send them a friendly reminder.

·         Personalized wishlists. With wishlists and our personalized gift suggestions, each player can receive exactly what they want for Christmas.

Save money on gifts

Unlimited players

Set exceptions

See the game progress

Create wishlists

Play online or in person

Secret Santa invitation email for colleagues

Subject: You’re invited to a Secret Santa Gift Exchange!

Hi everyone,
We are thrilled to announce our annual Secret Santa gift exchange! Join us and participate in a holiday tradition of spreading joy and surprises in our fantastic team.  

Gift exchange details:
Date: [Insert Date]
Time: [Insert Time]
Location: [Insert Location]

Here are the rules:

·         Please bring a wrapped gift that costs $30 or less. Let your creativity shine and make sure to choose something that your giftee will enjoy.
·         Include a fun clue about yourself along with a gift – something you enjoy, a few words about yourself or a riddle that will make the guessing fun!
Please let us know by [Insert Date] if you’d like to participate in the festivities. Should you have any questions, feel free to reach out to [Organizer's Name].

Happy holidays,
[Your Name]

How to play Secret Santa with coworkers virtually?

Organizing an online gift exchange is also easy, with the main exception that you send gifts by mail and not bring them in person:

1.       Create a new game on our platform, specifying that you will exchange presets by mail.

2.       Invite players, and when everyone joins the game, draw names.

3.       Make sure that every Santa buys a present in advance so that no delivery issues will prevent your colleagues from getting desired gifts.

4.       Set the time and date for the video conference call where everyone will join and unwrap gifts, sharing the suspense and joy of gift-giving.

Think about Christmas activities for your video call to make the gift exchange even more festive and memorable!

How to exchange presents?

Keep things secret when bringing gifts to the office so that nobody reveals your identity before the party. All employees can bring the wrapped gifts and leave them in the conference room or the HR department. They can put all the gifts under the Christmas tree or on the desk so that each player can pick a present and guess their Santa.  

What to give your coworker for Secret Santa

Choosing a present for a coworker you don’t know well can be puzzling, to say the least. You want to give your colleague something fun or practical and not embarrassing. If you host a themed gift exchange (for example, gifts that start with a T letter or tech gifts), follow the theme and keep the gift budget in mind.

Here are some great gift ideas for all types of coworkers:

Gifts under $30

Practical gifts

Creative gifts

·         Travel mug

·         Essential oil diffuser

·         Scented candles

·         Books

·         Healthy snacks

·         Hand crème set

·         Wooden massager

·         Rechargeable hand warmer

·         Desktop vacuum cleaner

·         Productivity planner

·         Fleece warm blanket

·         Set of spices

·         Computer glasses

·         Electric coffee grinder

·         Moon lamp

·         Personalized mug

·         Homemade presents

·         Money tree

·         Galaxy and star projector

·         Paint by numbers

·         Apple AirTag

Gift exchange etiquette for office parties

To make gift exchange fun for everyone and avoid confusing situations, follow these guidelines:

·         Stay on budget. Exchanging gifts of different values can make people feel uncomfortable. Nobody wants a situation where they bring a $40 present and receive a gift worth $5, or vice versa. If the gift budget is $25, try to stay within this amount. 

·         Know your recipient. If you don’t know the gift recipient well, choosing the present gets even more challenging. In MySanta generator, you can chat with the giftee anonymously and learn about their likes and dislikes. Plus, all participants can create wishlists so you will see what exactly your coworker wants for Christmas.

·         Avoid personal presents. Such gifts as lingerie, personal hygiene products, cleaning supplies, or weight loss products are a big no-no. Giving a present like this can confuse both you and the recipient, or even land you in the HR office.

·         Consider their wishlists. Online Secret Santa generators let the players create wishlists and add items they’d like to get. Study the wishlist of your giftee and buy a present they will be excited about!

·         Add a note. Write a small note with Christmas wishes for your colleague. The note will make your gift more personalized and help your coworker feel valued.

Tips and recommendations for a smooth Secret Santa experience

Here are some extra tips to help organize a joyful and memorable gift exchange:

Plan ahead

People have too much on their plates before Christmas, so announce the upcoming exchange a month or two in advance. If you advertise the gift exchange too late, people might not have the time to participate and prepare gifts.

Set the deadline for buying gifts, them, and the date and time of the exchange. Make sure everyone knows how Secret Santa is played. Keeping everything organized is key to a successful game. If many people participate in the game, our MySanta online generator will help keep track of everything and ensure that all Santas buy their gifts.

Set reasonable budget

Christmas can be costly, so it is best not to ask people to bring expensive gifts. It is advisable to keep the gift budget between $20 and $30. If one Santa wants to get a slightly more expensive present to indulge their recipient, it is up to them.

If the team is willing to spend more, adjust the budget accordingly, but avoid excessive spending to prevent discomfort among team members.

Try gift themes

Want your coworkers to get creative while buying presents? Try gift themes. Everyone can bring a gift that starts with a specific letter (say, K), homemade gifts, practical presents, or gifts related to a popular TV show. Inform people about the theme in their invitation letter.

You can also add missions, riddles, and challenges. Thus, the participants will not only open their wrapped gifts and guess but also look for gifts in the office or solve puzzles before getting a present. This will make the activity more engaging for everyone.

Don’t force everyone to join

It can happen that some of your coworkers will opt out of the game. Do not force them to join anyway. Participation in Secret Santa should be voluntary. Chances are, when they see the preparation before the event and hear their coworkers talking about the event, they will be excited to join the next year.

Show appreciation

You will receive a gift, too. If you are not super excited about the present you get, do not complain about it. Your Santa has put thought and effort into preparing a present for you, so acknowledge their effort and respond with a “thank you”. Moreover, expressing disappointment can lead to spoiled relationships in the office.

MySanta generator helps organize a successful game even for large teams and remote companies. Create a game, add participants, and you will see who has bought a gift and who needs a kind reminder. Thus, everyone on your team will get a present!