The Circle of Life: A Secret Santa Survival Guide

A Secret Santa can be a fantastic way to get people involved in a fun, low-pressure activity. This is even better if you’ve put a bit of thought into it beforehand and have the rules clearly laid out for everyone.

The Office Secret Santa Survival Guide

santa-clausChoose a theme. You could have everyone bring gifts related to a certain color or letter, or make a rule to have everyone gift food and drink or small monthly subscription services. That’s why, you don’t have to worry about somebody bringing a Rolex to the gift exchange while someone else shows up with a £10 gift card to Starbucks.

Try using your Secret Santa for a good cause. Can you center your theme around something charity-related, or all gift small donations to charities? Maybe you could even arrange a Secret Santa for local children instead of doing one within your own company.

Go white elephant. Everybody gets something they don’t really want at all over the holidays, so why not have a white elephant themed Secret Santa? People show up to re-gift the stuff they got that just wasn’t quite what they’d asked Santa for.

Decorated Christmas gifts on abstract background

Try your best to make sure everyone is included, but only if they want to be. Some people just aren’t into this kind of stuff, or make a point of not giving gifts. Try your best to get people to participate, but if people really aren’t into the idea, then don’t force them.

Give people a questionnaire ahead of time.  A lot of the time with these gift giving things, you get somebody who you might not know that well. Some people are shy in general, others are especially shy at the office so you never get to know them. How do you give a gift to someone you don’t know apart from saying hi in the mornings? That’s where your organisers should step in and have a small questionnaire for all the participants to fill out to give people an idea of what sort of things they like.

christmas_party-e1353364459874Limits are your friend! Cash limits, gifts you can and can’t give, dates when people have to give their gifts by — those are all good things to make very clear. It’ll make your whole game run more smoothly and keep things friendly for everyone.

Have a wish list people can create. This is similar to the questionnaire idea, but leaves less room for surprises. This could be a good thing depending on your office! People can just say directly what they’d like, so you don’t have to worry whether June in accounting would prefer receiving something generic, or if she’d like something a bit more special.

Add a twist to the game. Have everyone leave their gifts on a table and put their names in a hat. The first person whose name is drawn opens a gift. From there on, people can choose to either open a new gift or steal one from someone else. At the end, the first person can pick to steal a gift from anyone.

Get people to guess what the gifts are. Before giving it to the recipient, the giver will hold up the gift and everyone will shout out their best guesses as to what’s inside. This is more fun if people wrap their gifts in creative ways so people will have all kinds of crazy guesses.