How to Play Secret Santa

There are two main ways: the traditional way with slips of paper or stickers, and online.

Playing with slips of paper or stickers

  1. Participants write their names in block letters on slips of paper and place them into a hat or box. The names are then thoroughly shuffled.
  2. Each participant draws a slip and becomes the «Secret Santa» for the person whose name they have drawn.
  3. Participants give gifts without revealing their identity.

This method has several challenges:

  • People often lose their slip of paper and forget whom they are gifting.
  • If someone is left without a gift, it’s impossible to find out who was supposed to gift them.
  • It’s possible to draw your own name. Surprisingly, this happens quite often.
  • If someone is far away and not with you, they can’t be included in the game.
  • You can’t specify what you would or wouldn’t like to receive from your Secret Santa. Often you have to give Santa a hint about the perfect gift or make a wishlist.
  • You can’t create exceptions: for example, husband can’t gift wife.

The creators of MySanta website played this way for many years before deciding to bring the game online.

How to Play Online

  1. One participant creates an online game and invites players via email or a special link. The organizer sets a gift limit and specifies a deadline for joining the game.
  2. Each player indicates what they would like to receive as a gift, as well as what they definitely would not like. You can either drop hints or specify exact gifts in a wishlist.
  3. After all participants have registered, the game organizer adds necessary exceptions: e.g., «Paul does not gift Mary.» Checks that all players are present and clicks the «Conduct Drawing» button.
  4. The system randomly selects who will gift whom. No one will know who their Secret Santa is.
  5. Participants buy and prepare gifts for their recipients, trying to adhere to indicated wishes and interests.
  6. Depending on the game conditions, participants either give the gifts personally or send them by mail.

Essence and Purpose of Playing Secret Santa

The main essence of the game is to make the process of gift-giving even more fun and unexpected. Instead of just handing over a gift, participants try to maintain the suspense by hiding their identity.

How Many People Are Required for Secret Santa

A minimum of three people is needed. Of course, the more players, the more interesting it becomes, and the distribution is entirely random. Groups of up to nine people commonly play, but our service has hosted games with as many as 3000 participants successfully.

What If There’s an Odd or Even Number of People?

It doesn’t matter if the number of players is odd or even. For example:

  • Emily gifts John
  • John gifts Sarah
  • Sarah gifts Emily

In this example, there are three players, and each gives and receives a gift.

Who Usually Plays

Companies of Friends

Celebrate New Year together, and at midnight when the clock strikes, retrieve the gifts from under the tree. With Secret Santa, everyone gets a gift.

Work Colleagues

Play with your entire department or just those you work with most frequently. It’s best to exchange gifts at the New Year’s celebration.


Play as a whole class, including your teacher. Bring the gifts to your classroom, and formally present them on the last day before vacation.


On New Year’s, not only Santa leaves gifts under the tree. Each family member gives someone a gift; the youngest make their own gifts.

Interest Groups

Have you been communicating all year with people from your favorite hobby club? Play Secret Santa with them; we’re sure everyone will enjoy gifting each other.


You can play Secret Santa with strangers online. People may live thousands of miles away, but it’s sometimes nice to make an unfamiliar person’s New Year better.

How to Conduct Secret Santa

You need to decide how you’ll play. The rules depend on whether you gather online or in one location. If online, it could be a quick draw with passing the phone around, or a game where details are filled in, increasing the chances of receiving the ideal gift.

What Gifts to Give

The main rule: strive for the gift to be original and memorable. It’s important to give something the recipient will truly like and fondly remember all year. Read the gift wishes carefully and pay attention to what not to gift.

Our service includes wish lists; perhaps it’s worth checking what the player themselves would like.

Also, don’t forget about budget constraints. The gift should be within the game’s budget; more is likely okay, less is not.

How to Give Gifts

It all depends on the type of game you’re participating in. If it’s a mail-based game, not only do you need to pick the perfect gift, but you also need to figure out how to send it. Our recommendation is not to send via courier services, but to order the gift on a website and have it delivered directly to the recipient.

If you’re celebrating in one place, the organizer specifies the time and place for gift exchange. You gather together and hand out the gifts. Just don’t forget to pack them properly.

How to Wrap a Gift

A nicely wrapped gift adds a hundred points to the festive New Year feeling. We love gifts in boxes with ribbons that are delightful to unwrap.

The most important thing is to pack in a way that keeps you anonymous: sign the gift in block letters so that even your handwriting won’t give you away.

How to Sign a Secret Santa Gift

The main thing is to indicate the recipient: write in block letters to make it impossible to identify you by handwriting. Remember, the key is not to give yourself away, not even by a hint.

How to Find Out Who Your Secret Santa Is

We believe it should remain a secret forever. If you find out who your Secret Santa is, then how much of a «secret» is it? However, sometimes someone is left without a gift. So the organizer can «peek» in the Who’s Whose Santa section to find out who was supposed to gift whom.

Game Rules — Who Sets Them

The game organizer specifies all the parameters while creating the game. The most important ones are:

  • Gift budget
  • Entry deadline — the last day to join the game
  • Drawing date — the date when everyone finds out who their Santa is
  • Game description: important information for game participants with instructions on how to give gifts

Sometimes the organizer mentions in the rules that the game is free. No, it’s not about the entry fee; it means players make the gifts themselves, like cards or handcrafted items.

What Is It and Where Did the Tradition Come From

The first mentions of Secret Santa date back to the early 20th century. Since then, the game has become an integral part of holiday events for many companies, schools, and families.

The exact origins of Secret Santa are hard to trace; it’s believed that the first games were held in Scandinavia. There, people rode reindeer and gifted each other presents, doing so secretly. Over time, the tradition took on modern features and spread worldwide.

Create a game

Don’t postpone, organise the gift exchange today!

Invite the participants and set up the game. We’ll make sure the game goes great.

Create a game