How to play Secret Santa with friends?

How to play Secret Santa with friends?
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Playing a Secret Santa with friends is a fun way to celebrate the holiday season. The game helps you save on presents, as each participant buys only one gift for the assigned person. Plus, Secret Santa keeps the mystery and suspense of the holiday season alive, as nobody knows who gives a present to whom. 

To organize a festive Secret Santa exchange, you need a minimum of three participants. If your friends live far away, you can exchange presents by mail and strengthen your friendship in the distance. This guide will help you host a fun gift exchange and ensure that everyone gets the present they want. 

Table of Contents

  1. How to draw names for Secret Santa
  2. Tips for a smooth gift exchange with friends
  3. Secret Santa gift ideas for friends
  4. How to exchange gifts in Secret Santa?
  5. Checklist for organizing Secret Santa exchange for friends

How to draw names for Secret Santa 

Suggest playing Secret Santa this year, and if your friends like the idea, the fun begins! The Secret Santa activity starts with drawing names to find out who gives presents to whom. There are two ways to do it. 

Draw names from the hat 

In traditional Secret Santa, all players gather in one room and write their names on pieces of paper. Next to their name, each player writes a few gift suggestions. People draw names in turn and then prepare presents for the player whose name they have drawn. 

This method is quick and has its charm, but it has some disadvantages. What if some of your friends don’t like each other? And if one player loses the paper with their giftee’s name, it means that someone in your group will not get a present and it will spoil the holiday vibe. That’s why we recommend a modern way to organize your Secret Santa. 

Use an online Secret Santa generator 

There are plenty of online generators that can draw names automatically, including our MySanta generator. You can exchange presents even if your friends are far away and it is not possible to meet in person this Christmas. Here’s how it works: 

1.     Add players. Invite players by email or ask everyone to join using an invite link. 

2.     Set the rules. Decide how you want to play (in person or online) and choose the date of the gift exchange and the budget. 

3.     Draw names. When everyone joins the game, draw names and everyone will be assigned to another player. You can set exceptions if some friends don’t get along well to avoid tension. 

4.     Add the gift wishes. Each player writes in their profile what they want to get for Christmas and what not to give them. 

5.     Unwrap gifts and have fun! All players come to the party with gifts. People unwrap presents in turn and guess their Secret Santa. If you play online, organize a Zoom call to open gifts. 

Another advantage of the online generator is that you can see who bought a present and who sent it already. Thus, you can track the game progress and send reminders to Santas who forgot to buy a gift. 

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Did you know? Reddit broke the world record for the largest Secret Santa exchange. Over 89,000 people, including Bill Gates, Snoop Dogg, and other famous people participated in the global gift exchange. 

Tips for a smooth and fun gift exchange with friends 

Plan early 

Christmas holidays are busy – people buy presents for everyone, decorate their homes, and maybe play Secret Santa with coworkers and other groups. It’s best to plan your gift exchange a month or two ahead. Thus, everyone will have time to choose a thoughtful present and prepare for the festivities. 

Set a reasonable budget 

Exchanging presents of the same value will help you avoid frustrations and keep the exchange equal. Choose a comfortable gift value for your group and encourage everyone to exchange gifts of this amount. If you are students who live on a budget, buying presents worth $5 or $10 is a way to go. Or, you can decide to exchange homemade presents and food. If everyone can afford to spend more, then be it. The main idea is to avoid situations when one player receives a $5 gift, and the other – a $50 present. 

Give hints 

Guessing the Secret Santa is always a lot of fun and laughter. To make the guessing even more exciting, add a card with clues about your identity. You can use a rhymed riddle or just a few words that came to your mind. Don’t use obvious clues, such as the first letter of your name, your job, or the neighborhood where you live. Make them creative and Christmassy and everyone in your group will have fun! 

Example: I'm someone who knows your favorite treat, and I've seen you wearing that blue scarf all week.

Bring wrapped presents 

Each player should bring a wrapped gift with a gift recipient’s name. When choosing a present, make sure to take the cost of wrapping and the Christmas card into account. If you exchange presents in person, bring your gift secretly so that nobody knows who brought each gift. 

If you exchange presents by mail, order the gift delivery on Amazon so that the recipient does not see your name and address. When ordering through a different site, ask if they have gift options to ship your present anonymously. 

Organize the gift exchange party

Plan your Christmas celebration and the gift exchange early. Decide who hosts the party, who brings food and drinks, and plan the party activities besides the gift exchange. You can play Christmas bingo, have a game night, make ornaments, run contests, or simply watch movies, whatever works for your group. If you give presents by mail, schedule a video call and encourage everyone to open their present and guess their Santa. 

Play Secret Santa with a twist 

If you play Secret Santa often, add a twist to the game. You can exchange themed presents (such as items of a particular color, practical gifts, or Marvel gifts). There are also Secret Santa game variations, such as Secret Santa Casino, White Elephant, Conspiracy Santa, and more. Read our guide to Secret Santa game variations

Secret Santa gift ideas for friends 

Choosing a present that your friend likes can be a challenge. To make this task easier for all players, people can write wish ideas on paper next to their name, or use a wishlist in the MySanta service. Thus, all your friends will receive the presents they want, and all Santas will not have to puzzle over choosing a gift. In MySanta, you can also chat with your giftee anonymously and find out what the person wants. 

Feeling stuck? Consider these practical gift ideas: 

1.    Long charging cable

2.    Mini waffle maker

3.    Mug warmer

4.    Extra virgin olive oil 

5.    Cozy blanket

6.    Rechargeable hand warmer

7.    Funny notebook 

8.    Massage gun

9.    Screen magnifier for smartphone

10.  Funny socks 

11.  Desktop vacuum cleaner

12.  Set of hand creams

13.  Scented candles

14.  Makeup brush set

15.  House plant

16.  Fleece slippers

17.  Board game

18.  AirPods case 

How to exchange gifts in Secret Santa? 

If you play in person, everyone brings the wrapped present to the host of the party. Bring your present secretly so that other guests cannot see it and reveal the mystery before time. The host then places all gifts under the Christmas tree or at the table. Each player takes their gift, unwraps it and guesses who got them a present. 

In the online game, players send gifts by mail or a delivery service. For example, Amazon offers the option to ship your gift anonymously so that the recipient won’t know who it came from. On the exchange day, schedule a video call with friends when everyone will exchange gifts and have fun! 

Checklist for organizing Secret Santa exchange for friends

Want to stay on top of everything when organizing the Secret Santa game? Use our checklist to make your gift exchange a success: 

Organizing Secret Santa with friends, family, or coworkers is much easier with MySanta service. Add all players, set deadline for gifts, and the app will draw names and send reminders so that all players buy their gifts on time. Plus, you can set exceptions and play with as many people as you like, in person or online. Make Secret Santa a new heartwarming tradition this holiday season!