The Origins of Mystery Santa

The origins of Secret Santa are attributed to philanthropist Larry Dean Stewart. He came up with the idea of anonymous gift-giving during holidays. Stewart came up with the idea of anonymous gift-giving which started a new holiday tradition. Over 26 years, he donated around $1.3 million until he came out in 2006. The tradition of clandestine gifting has its roots in various cultures, from Scandinavia’s «Julklapp» custom of leaving unseen gifts to German folklore’s gift-delivering elves aiding Santa Claus.

Today, this practice is widely popular — people play Secret Santa at holiday parties in the office and family gatherings, and Reddit’s expansive Secret Santa game boasts over 85,000 participants, including notable figures like Bill Gates and the Prime Minister of New Zealand. The game helps create a joyful holiday spirit and adds a touch of mystery to your celebration — you have to guess who your Santa is!

The basic rules for playing Secret Santa game

Secret Santa game has many variations, however, the basic principle is the same: people get each other presents without revealing their identity. Here are the traditional rules for playing Secret Santa in person:

  1. Organize the game. Before the magic begins, gather all players to discuss the details, such as the budget for gifts and the day the gifts will be given.
  2. Draw names. Write down the name of each participant on a piece of paper. Place all names in a hat or a box. After drawing someone’s name from the container, you become this person’s Secret Santa and should get them a gift. It is important that everyone keeps their chosen name in secret.
  3. Deliver gifts. On the chosen day, all participants gather to put gifts under the Christmas tree or send them to receivers. Usually, gifts are exchanged during the holiday party, marked by a ceremonious handover.
  4. Guess the gift-giver. After everyone exchanges their gifts, you have an opportunity to guess who your Secret Santa is. This moment often leads to laughter and bonding of the participants involved.

The traditional method has its complications. People can lose the note with the giftee’s name and forget whom they should get a present, someone can draw their own name, and it is hardly possible to play if some participants live far away. With My Santa service, you can play online, inviting players from all corners of the world, and the number of participants is not limited.

How To Play Secret Santa Online?

My Santa service makes it easy and convenient to play with relatives who live on different continents or remote teams. Here’s how to get the gift-giving magic started:

  1. Create an online game. Set up the gift exchange and invite other players using a special link. The person setting up the game specifies the budget for gifts and the day when the gifts will be given.
  2. Everyone joins the game. Participants create wish lists and specify what they would like to receive as a gift and what they don’t.
  3. Draw names. SAfter all participants have joined, you can set up the exceptions, for example, John will not give presents to Mary. The game matches players randomly, and none of the players will know who their Secret Santa is.
  4. Exchange gifts. SAll the players buy and wrap their presents. Depending on the conditions of the game, everyone brings presents to the party or sends them by mail.
  5. Guess who is your Santa. Guessing is the part of the fun, and often the most exciting element of the party.

Secret Santa Variants For Every Gathering

There are countless variations of a classical Secret Santa game, and each version has its unique charm. Here’s a glimpse into different holiday traditions of gift-giving:

Secret Casino Santa

Each player buys a gift for a specific amount and also contributes to a money pot. Everyone can choose a gift, try to win the jackpot, or attempt to win all unchosen gifts, which adds a competitive edge to the festivities.

Guessing Game

Everyone brings a gift with a letter full of hints for an assigned person. The giftees guess the gift-givers based on the gifts and hints, which adds a touch of intrigue to the traditional exchange.

White Elephant

Each participant brings a wrapped gift. Players can either open a new gift or «steal» an opened one from someone until everyone ends up with their favorite. Disguising the gifter’s identity is essential.

Conspiracy Santa

Participants collectively choose a gift for one person without their knowledge. It emphasizes learning about each other and is popular in workplaces and schools, as it helps players bond.

Online Secret Santa

Online Secret Santa services are increasingly popular among those who cannot meet in person or want to set up a game for dozens of players, which is difficult to do in person. An online Santa service makes organizing and participating in the game more fun and convenient.

Tips for a Seamless Secret Santa Experience

  1. Plan everything. To ensure a smooth experience, set up a budget, add participants, and agree on the date in advance. My Santa will send notifications so that you don’t forget to prepare your gift on time.
  2. Set gift budget. Pre-decide and agree upon the spending limit to keep gift-giving fair and within everyone’s financial reach.
  3. Establish the deadline. Decide on a final date for exchanging gifts to avoid any delays and make sure that everyone has plenty of time to buy gifts.
  4. Track the progress. The person who organized the game can monitor the progress of all players and send reminders to Santas who haven’t bought gifts yet.
  5. Understand the preferences. My Santa asks each player’s preferences and dislikes to help you choose the gift that the receiver will appreciate.
  6. Have a plan B. Create a gift fund or think about the alternatives if someone forgets to send a gift, so that everyone receives a present.

The Secret Santa with its enigmatic nature and the tradition of clandestine gifting will spark up your Christmas celebration. Determine the desired Secret Santa variation and make sure that each player knows the rule to maintain the mystery of gift-giving. Ready to start your Secret Santa with family, friends, or coworkers? Sign up for free and set up the game to make the magic happen.

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