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What are the Rules of Secret Santa?

Secret Santa traditions are fun to participate in. It can be a challenge to organize them successfully. Here are some rules applicable to Secret Santa.
Vrinda Varnekar Aug 17, 2020

Did You Know?

The White Elephant gift exchanging ritual is similar to that of Secret Santa. For a more game-like, funny gift exchange, you can try White Elephant.
It's the month of Christmas, and you're decking the halls with boughs of holly, everything and everyone around you looks so bright, colorful, cheerful, and happy―'tis the season to be jolly! We are sure you're busy shopping for great Christmas gifts for those you love, and for those who really matter to you.
However, have you thought of having a Secret Santa ritual with your co-workers or extended family or friends? Often, there are people we don't buy Christmas gifts for, plainly because we aren't very close to them.
A Secret Santa tradition would be a wonderful way for people to bond with one another. Plus, it's a lot of fun to sneak around and gift someone something anonymously. Also, there's a party later on where you reveal your identities to one another― doesn't that sound like so much fun?
If you're thinking you'd like to go with this whole Secret Santa plan, we're here to help you organize it flawlessly. Follow some basic rules, and this ritual will be fabulous, and you can be sure that everyone who participates will be gushing about this all year!

Decide the group you want to do this with

First and foremost, you need to decide which group of people from your social circles you want to experience Secret Santa with. It could be your family, your wide friends circle, the people you work with, etc.
You can try mixing groups only if you're very sure it'll work. Often, people find that mixing two different groups is a bad idea. So, mix your friends and family only when you're certain that they all know each other and will be comfortable with this arrangement.

Make the invites

Once you've decided who you want to include in this plan, invite all the prospective participants either in person or via email. Ask them to RSVP though, you have to know how many people are willing to participate before you begin with the actual ritual. Once you have their replies, you can go ahead to the next step. 

Draw names

Once you have all your participants, have the custom of drawing names for Secret Santa. You can do this the traditional way―have all the participants get together, write everyone's names on pieces of paper, fold them up, and put them in a hat or a bowl. Have each person pick out a chit of whose Secret Santa he's going to be (and not reveal who he picked!).
Sure, there might be the usual goof-up where someone draws their own name, but you can handle it by having everyone redraw. If you're having a Secret Santa with someone who lives far away, you can have the drawing of names online, too. There are plenty of Secret Santa sites that will help you do this smoothly.

Declare the Secret Santa time period

All the participants are supposed to be given a time period during which they have to get a gift for the person they've picked and deliver it secretly. Make sure the time you give everyone is comfortable and does not become a source of stress―make it a week, two weeks, whatever you feel is best. 

Declare the spending limit

This gift-exchange has to have a spending limit so that everyone taking part can easily afford it―don't set extravagant spending limits which might embarrass any participant. The point of this exchange is bonding with people, and extravagant gifts aren't necessary to do that.
Set a basic spending limit―it could be USD 10, it could be USD 30, or it could be USD 100―it really depends upon the group you're doing this with. Maybe, it would be a good idea to declare this spending limit in advance so that participants know how much they're expected to spend.

Make wish lists available

Shopping for someone you barely know or don't like much, which can be the case in a work atmosphere, can be very tricky and even boring. Have everyone answer a few basic questions about their likes and dislikes, and create their own wish lists.
Here's a small reminder though, these lists have to be realistic. Nobody's going to gift anyone a Porsche just because they wrote that on their wish list! You can post all these wish lists on a public platform where each Secret Santa can discreetly have a look at them.

Specify what's not allowed

If you're organizing a Secret Santa, you'll be having an idea about what gifts you want to keep away from this exchange. Make it clear to every participant what's okay and what's not―if it's an office Secret Santa, you might want to steer clear of adult humor gifts. 
Specify what all is forbidden to ensure nobody gets an uncomfortable gift, regardless of how funny it seems to the Secret Santa himself.

Go Shopping!

Now that you've picked the person whose Secret Santa you're going to be, and you also know about his/her likes and dislikes, go shopping!
Hit the stores to hunt for the perfect present, or if you feel you don't have enough time, shop online. While buying a gift, do pause to think if you'd like that gift item if someone else gave it to you. If yes, then buy it by all means. But if not, well, then you need to keep looking.

Play Santa

Now comes the fun and tricky part. As kids, we all believed that Santa came secretly at night with our presents IF we slept, and if we didn't, he'd give our homes a miss altogether. Basically, that's what you have to do too.
Deliver the gift to the person very, very secretly, by no means should your present or your method of delivery reveal ANY hint about who you are. Plan your moves carefully, and act accordingly―you CANNOT afford to get caught, or the fun's over. Write something like "With Love, Santa" on your gift if you want.

Have a party for revealing identities

Plan a party or a get together in advance, and make sure everyone knows the time and venue. Your Secret Santa party will be the platform for all to reveal their identities ―kind of like superheroes. Fun, don't you think?
So? Have we convinced you to have a Secret Santa, yet? As we said earlier, rules for this ritual do vary from group to group. If you want to make your custom funny, you can add a few silly rules too, if you like, just be sure that all the participants are aware of them and are okay with them. Merry Christmas!