Every family has spontaneous events which turn into monthly or annual events and, before you know it, into a tradition. My uncle’s family, for instance, has a tradition of making their own colors during Holi. It started off as a fun experiment a few years ago and it soon turned into a ritual they haven’t missed in 14 years.
My own family has been visiting an NGO every year to celebrate my mother’s Birthday. No matter which part of the world she may be in, she’ll make it a point to celebrate her Birthday with underprivileged people and buy gifts for them. You must be wondering what does this have to do with the tradition of Secret Santa?
Well, the whole idea of Secret Santa germinated in an equally whimsical manner. The only difference is, instead of catching the fancy of a family or a community, it spread across the whole world. You can call it the beauty of social media. Or you can call it the magic of Christmas. But conducting a Secret Santa event has become a ritual set in stone in almost every community, office or family across the world.
For those rare exceptions still not familiar with the concept of Secret Santa, it is basically a game where a person or a group of people anonymously buy gifts for someone. The game is named so because the receiver has no clue from who their ‘Secret Santa’ is unless explicitly expressed by the giver. The game begins with a bowl or a hat filled with names of all the participants of the game.
The bowl is then passed around and everyone picks a chit from it. Whoever’s name is picked is supposed to be surprised anonymously by you. The receiver is supposed to guess their Secret Santa after the gift is unwrapped. While families go all out with their surprises, it is often used as an ice breaker between departments in offices as well.
So, Who Invented this Secret Santa Game anyway?
Well, it was never designed as a game. At least not by the person who started it all in 1979 – a philanthropist called Larry Dean Stewart. For more than 25 years, he secretly donated 100 dollar bills to unwary citizens of Kansas to brighten up their Christmas festivities.
He reportedly donated over $25000 dollars in the form of $100 dollar bills to New Yorkers after the 9/11 attacks. It was only in 2006 that he decided to come out as the real ‘Secret Santa’ who had been surprising people for so long. The selfless act of kindness, pursued since so long, caught the attention of the media and it became a rage larger than he ever expected.
While Larry unknowingly popularised the catchphrase all across the United States, the concept of Secret Santa has apparently been in existence since a long time. People in the United Kingdom, for instance, play a very similar game that is termed as ‘Kris Kringle.’ Irishmen have a different name for it – ‘Kris Kingle.’ Germans have their own version popularly known as ‘Wichteln,’ which is derived from ‘Wichtel’ meaning goblin or elf.
But a quick glance at the search results on Google Keyword Planner tool will give you a sense of how massive ‘Secret Santa gifts’ has become. What started as a trendy and cool thing to do has become an obligation, albeit a fun one. After all, who doesn’t like gifts, right? And especially if you end up becoming a Secret Santa for your boss or for your crush, then the pressure of buying something absolutely extraordinary is immense.
So going back to Google’s keyword planner tool, it’s one of the most insightful reservoirs of people’s mind-set towards Secret Santa. Over 60% of the search volume on Google typically revolves around budget-friendly gifts, probably for colleagues they don’t like, such as ‘Secret Santa gifts under 500,’ ‘Cheap Secret Santa gifts,’ or ‘Inexpensive gifts for Secret Santa.’ There are also those who go all out and buy anything from PlayStations to iPhones for their loved ones.
One lucky receiver in 2019 apparently got an 81-pound package as her gift from Secret Santa. And that’s because her Secret Santa was none other than the billionaire Bill Gates himself. So if your office has a tradition of playing Secret Santa annually, maybe all you should be wishing for this Christmas is to have your chit picked up by the CEO – especially if you work for one of the tech giants.
But keeping the greed aside, what Secret Santa does for the community is bring us all a little closer – even if it is just for a day. The process of buying a gift is never easy. When you play Secret Santa at work, in your school or your church – there are 2 possibilities. First, you either know the person really well. In such a case, you can’t get away by gifting a lame mug or a bar of chocolate.
How to Do a Secret Santa?
Gifting is as gratifying for the giver as it is for the receiver and you want to ensure that the person really enjoys the gift that you’ve picked or made. Second, you either know very little or nothing at all about the person. That makes the job even more difficult because you have to first start with digging information about the person so you can ensure that the gift is relevant.
How would you like it if you were lactose intolerant and your Secret Santa ends up buying you a box of milk chocolates? Probably not a lot, right? The more you learn about the person, the more you realise that you have more in common than you otherwise thought. And this creates connections.
As a gifting company, our Happiness Consultants at Oye Happy are the busiest during the Christmas Season because they are flooded with calls from clueless people seeking safe and unique gift ideas. ‘What do I give my boss? I just know that he likes golf a lot.’ Or ‘I really like this girl in my office and I pulled some strings to get her chit.
Now I want my Christmas gift to be really special. What do I do?’ While it’s very amusing to receive such calls, it’s also an equally big responsibility to ensure that both the giver and the receiver enjoy the process of gifting. To make it easier for people to personalise their Secret Santa gift so that it looks unique and relevant, even if you don’t know the receiver that well, we’ve launched a whole range of simple-to-customise Secret Santa gifts under 500.
Thanks to social media, everybody has access to photos of everybody else. All you need to customise a mug or a magnet for someone is procure one photograph and we’ll handle the rest. Offices that are playing Secret Santa virtually during the pandemic, the tricky part is to procure the postal address of the receiver without revealing your identity. For such cases, we’ve also introduced a whole range of virtual Secret Santa gifts. So all you need to share is a phone number or an email ID and that’s enough to ensure that your gift is better than a random gift voucher or an ecard that no one cares about.