7 awesome ways to make Secret Santa more fun

Updated on January 28, 2023
how to make secret santa more fun

Secret Santa is so much fun! I’ve always looked forward to having Secret Santa in the office once the Christmas season came around.

Usually, I always get presents that don’t suit me at all but I love the tradition anyway.

It’s great to have all your colleagues gathered around the office Christmas tree in anticipation to open the presents and have a good laugh.

Here I will tell you more about the Secret Santa tradition as well as how to make it more fun for your colleagues in the office.

Remember, it’s not about the presents, it’s about bonding with the people you work with and creating meaningful experiences.

How to play Secret Santa

how to play secret santa

Secret Santa is a Western tradition in which members of a community (or a company department/professional team) are randomly assigned to give gifts to other members of the group.

In this tradition, the gift giver cannot reveal their identity, and the recipient will not know who the gift came from.

This gift-giving tradition is a lot of fun, and it can make you feel jolly during your company Christmas party.

Nowadays, it is a common team-building event that takes place in most office departments, usually just before the holiday time off that most employees take.

To play Secret Santa in the office, a person needs to be assigned the role of organizer. Usually, a member of the HR staff or a company culture manager will organize the event.

If you are the organizer of the event, then here is what you need to do.

1. Determine the gift price range

Secret Santa is not about fancy gifts. It’s about fun and laughter.

Usually, anything between $10 and $20 is acceptable. But hey, if you are working for some international oil corporation, you do you. Handmade gifts are also accepted.

2. Determine when the game will take place

This is important because it is best to do the gift-giving and unwrapping when most of the colleagues are present in the office.

This way it will be the most fun because you will be able to see each other’s reactions when you receive and open the presents.

3. Announce the game to all who may participate

Send an announcement email to all colleagues who can take part in the game. Make sure to mention the gift price range and when the gift-giving and opening will take place.

Also, provide an online form where the colleagues who want to participate can sign up.

4. Fill a Christmas hat with names

When you have the final list of people who want to participate, print it out (make the font a bit larger), and use scissors to cut the sheet into smaller pieces that contain the names of the participates.

Roll them and put them into a Christmas hat or some funny-looking bag. Go around the office, visit the people who have signed up for Secret Santa and ask them to draw the name of the person for whom they will get (or make) a gift.

5. Send a reminder email

A week before the gift-giving, remind your coworkers about the Secret Santa event. Make sure to mention where they can place the gift once they bring it to the office.

Usually, that would be under the office Christmas tree but a table near it will also work.

You are all set. Now all that is left is to wait for the gift-giving day. And to get the present that you will be gifting. When the time comes, gather all colleagues near the present stacking spot.

As the organizer of the event, go next to the presents, pick one up and announce who will be receiving it. Then move on to the next one.

Also, if possible have a person to record the event or at least take pictures. Enjoy your gift-gibing and unwarping!

What to get for Secret Santa

what to get for secret santa

Oh boy, the office party is in 3 days and you have no idea what present to get for Steve. What does Steve like anyway?

Don’t stress too much about it. Steve probably doesn’t have big expectations about his present anyway. So if you are thinking of getting him a coffee mug or a pen with his name, you will be fine, I’m sure.

However, if you don’t want to be the most boring person in the world, you can apply at least a bit of creativity and sensitivity to your choice of present.

Hopefully, you can examine one of your colleague’s social profiles. Maybe you can take a little sneak peek and figure out what their interests are? If they like spicy wings, then you can get them a selection of hot sauces.

Boom! I’d love that.

Or, if they are a gamer, maybe you can get them a t-shirt depicting their favorite character? Or if they are a gym-goer, you can just get them a bag of their favorite protein.

Trust me, you can’t go wrong with fitness enthusiasts and protein.

What I am trying to say is that it would be great to make the present a tad more personal. This will show your colleagues that you gave it some thought and you chose something that you hoped they would really like.

It can be a sci-fi book or movie tickets or a toy figurine of their favorite animal. Do your best and good luck!

And how about the gift of love? In case you are single and lonely during the holidays, you can check out our guide on how to become close to one of your coworkers and ask them out on a date in case you are attracted to them.

How to make Secret Santa more fun

how to make secret santa more fun and enjoyable

If you are tired of playing Secret Santa the good old way, then you can definitely make things more fun and interesting. You can apply the following “mods” to your gift-giving event.

1. White Elephant

The White Elephant gift exchange (also known as Yankee Swap) is a great way to make Secret Santa more fun. This is probably the most popular alternative version of the game.

The rules are simple: the first participant takes a present from the stack and their turn ends. The second participant has the option to either open a present from the stack or to steal the first participant’s unwrapped present.

The game ends when all participants are holding a present. At the very end, the first participant has the right to either steal a present or to unwrap the very last one to end the game.

2. Conspiracy Santa

Another popular alternative is Conspiracy Santa. In this game, everyone in the room opens a gift, then everyone takes a turn and tries to guess who is their Secret Santa. Laughs and jokes in 3, 2, 1…

3. Sneaky Santa

The idea is to bring a present and do your best to sneakily place it on the desk of the receiver without them noticing you. This is a lot of fun because it puts everyone in the office on edge in order to catch their Sneaky Santa.

4. Dirty Santa

In this modification of the game, the participants try to get the most absurd and impractical presents that they can get. The idea is to make the game as absurd as possible.

And the best part is that it works absolutely great in combination with the White Elephant mod.

5. Establish a gift theme

Imagine if the theme of your Secret Santa presents was the color yellow. This means everybody has to get a yellow present.

But the theme can be anything from animals to toys or be related to certain activities like cooking or working out. Then you can have everybody explain how their present fits the theme. Subscriptions and services are also great themes.

6. Mystery wrap gift picking

In this version, everybody brings a well-wrapped present. When a person is called next to the pile of presents, they can choose their mystery present solely based on its wrapping and appearance.

7. Scavenger hunt

Everybody has to hide their present somewhere in the office. Then they have to leave a note with a riddle on the desk of the recipient.

It’s a lot of fun to watch your colleagues mindlessly searching and scratching their heads over badly written notes.

What to do instead of Secret Santa

What to do instead of Secret Santa

If you are looking to play something that is not gift-based during your office Chrismas, then here are my top 5 suggestions based on my personal experience as a person who has worked for the same company for over 10 years and has attended the same number of Christmas office parties.

1. Trivia with rewards

Every office has at least a few smarty-pants who love to show off just how knowledgeable about the world they are.

Well, you can put them to the test (as well as everyone else who isn’t annoying) by organizing a trivia with rewards. You can have themes as well.

It can be a company-related trivia or just general knowledge. Just have a list of questions (and their correct answers), gather everybody, and start shouting!

2. Murder mystery

Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery? The boring folks, that’s who! But murder mysteries are simply amazing and they add an element of exhilarating excitement to your company Christmas party so consider organizing it.

Besides, there are thousands of scenarios you can choose from!

3. You smile, you lose!

Trivia and murder mysteries are engaging and they require effort and thinking. So here is a game that doesn’t require anything else other than sheer willpower.

Gather 7 to 10 people in a circle and have them stare at each other. The first to smile or laugh drops out!

The victor shall be the one who remains at the end, their lips never to betray them with the smile of weakness and shame!

4. Imaginary words

This is another game that doesn’t require a lot of effort. Pick one of your colleagues and ask them to come up with a non-existing word.

Something like “hotezelment” or “traflarkian” or anything else that sounds like a word but isn’t. Then pick 3 other people to come up with an imaginary definition for the word.

The person who came up with the word gets to pick the winner of the round based on which definition they find the most amusing and clever.

5. Donate to charity

It’s all fun and games but it is actually not for many. For some reason, people become a lot kinder around the holidays and they remember that other human beings who struggle exist.

So, instead of Secret Santa, you can simply donate to a local charity. For example, everyone can use their budget to purchase a toy.

Collect the toys in a large box and have the presents delivered to the nearest orphanage. Also, you can simply collect the money and donate them to a deserving charity.

Key takeaways

  • Everyone can play Secret Santa. It is an enjoyable alternative to the regular gift-giving process.
  • This social activity allows you to meet new people and bond with your colleagues. You can use the game to get to know your co-workers better.
  • The Christmas office party can be a fun opportunity for colleagues to get together and celebrate the holidays.
  • You can have different games for each of your departments as you are not limited to Secret Santa.
  • A fun-filled office game event can be an excellent way to get your staff together, and it's perfect for Holiday parties.
Written by:
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galin office topics square
co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

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