Secret Santa is a Western Christmas tradition often practiced in workplaces or amongst large families where buying a present for everyone is daunting and unaffordable. The tradition goes back to Christendom and is practiced all over the world, from the US where it’s called Secret Santa to Ireland where it’s referred to as Kris Kringle. It is also found in the Philippines where it is known as Monito-Monita.

How does it work ?

If you find that you have too many people to buy gifts for this Christmas, it might be a good idea to organize a Secret Santa event instead. This means that everybody would only have to pay for one gift, and the gift that they receive in return would be a much higher quality than it would otherwise have been. This will only work if the people involved know each other, therefore if you have friends from a number of different friendship groups, a Secret Santa may not be possible for you.

The tradition of holding a Secret Santa is widespread in other European countries, but not so much in Malta, so to be safe, we would suggest bouncing the idea with your friends and family members first.

Brief them about the event, and figure out how many would be interested in taking part. Secret Santa doesn’t really work if you’re less than six.

Make a list of those who said that they would take part, write their names on separate pieces of paper, fold them, and place them into a box. Then, ask your friends, to pick one piece of paper each and to read the name that’s on it. If it is their own name they will need to place the paper back into the box and pick another; if it is not, then this is the person for whom they should buy a gift.

These are the guidelines that need to be set beforehand:

  • Set a cost bracket  - a narrow bracket of how much each present should cost (for example between €5 and €10) need not to be too rigid.
  • Make a list of gifts to avoid, for example, food, drinks, perfumery or even gifts of an adult nature because not everyone appreciates gifts of this type.
  • Be specific. For example specify if re-gifting is allowed. Some people choose not to spend the money set for their Secret Santa, but choose to re-gift a more expensive gift. This however might create friction later, when some would have stuck to the rules whilst others twisted them.
  • Set a date for when presents need to be bought by, and then plan when you are going to exchange them.
  • You should ask a neutral person, ideally a friend who was not involved, to collect the presents and then distribute them. This will ensure that your friends do not work out who their gift is from.
  • The event usually ends up in a night were you exchange the gifts, socialize and share the joy.
  • It is important that the secret of who bought each gift is not revealed. Ensure that your friends know this, and do not write anything other than the recipient’s name on the gift tag. In fact it is a good idea to ask somebody else to write the tag for you, as this would mean that your handwriting won’t be recognized.

Provided that all goes to plan, everybody will then have a gift that they appreciate, along with the excitement of having to keep a secret. Secret Santa is an excellent way to start the festive celebrations, and also ensures that everybody is able to get involved without having to worry about buying gifts for a large number of people. 

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