The Circle of Life: A Secret Santa Survival Guide

Employee first day

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

circle-life-secret-santa-survival-guide 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.

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Brian Beardsley

DTG Supervisor

Brian Beardsley has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 2018. He is our DTG Supervisor. Brian loves that he gets to work with high-tech machines in a fun atmosphere. He has a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. He said, “I always wanted to create visually interesting assets in a variety of mediums”. In his free time, he enjoys building and painting models, playing video games, designing, and playing his guitar.


Erik Mickelson


Erik Mickelson’s position as Manager is more than a job, it’s a passion. It’s always fun and exciting because he enjoys marketing, computers, and coming up with innovative ideas to help NWCA grow. He majored in accounting and finance at Washington State University, graduating in 1996, and returned to school to obtain his Master of Business from WGU, graduating in 2016. Erik continually strives to advance his education through podcasts, audiobooks, and industry tradeshows. He is married to a remarkable and caring wife named Wendy, a Registered Nurse, with whom he shares his many hobbies and a love for the outdoors.



Jim Mickelson


Jim Mickelson, after a successful career with a major oil company, founded Northwest Embroidery in 1977. This was the first commercial embroidery in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, Jim has become the guru of embroidery never refusing to answer a question or offer advice to his fellow embroiders. Jim and his wife Leeanna raised four wonderful children who went on to successful business careers.