10 Fun Ways to Play Secret Santa

secret santa gift
Let the Secret Santa games begin! | Image courtesy Unsplash user Samuel Holt

For those of you who haven’t played Secret Santa for a while, here’s a refresher course. The basic rules are simple. Each participant places their name in a box, hat or similar container. Or to easily keep track of gift exchange details, use SecretSanta.com’s online organizerNext, the names are mixed up and each person selects one from the container without telling anyone else whose name they drew. Each person is then secretly responsible for buying their chosen recipient a gift. 

These games are all conducive to laughter and fun, and building a sense of fellowship and camaraderie.

There are many variations on the theme, such as those given below.

1.  The Yankee Swap – Also known as Dirty Santa or White Elephant, this one brings out the Grinch in everyone. Each player brings a gift within a set price limit that every other player would enjoy. Participants take turns either selecting a gift or stealing one from a player who has already chosen one. Thus, the last player ends up with his/her favorite of the bunch.

presents and kids under the tree
Try a kid-friendly game, like Left, Right, Left. | Image courtesy Pixabay user jill111

2.  Left, Right, Left – The ultimate kid-friendly game. Every child brings a gift suitable for either boys or girls which they pass around in a circle while someone reads a story. Every time the word LEFT or RIGHT appears, the gifts are passed in that direction. The game ends when the story is over and every child holds a gift. If you feel creative, you can write your own story or borrow one from the White Elephant Rules website.

3.  Santa’s Casino – Here’s one for big kids. Players bring money as well as gifts, maybe a $10 gift for the table and a $5 bill for the jackpot. Each kid gets one of three options:

Option A:  Choose a gift from the table

Option B:  Put their name in a hat to win the jackpot

Option C:  Put their name in a separate hat to win the gifts not chosen

4.  Grab BagWhite Elephant Rules.com contributes this idea: People bring gifts that are unusually shaped or wrapped in deceptive shapes. They are placed in a bag or box so that participants cannot see them. In an order determined by drawing numbers from a hat, partiers select a gift with a shape that intrigues them the most.

The following three suggestions came from Hugo Halliday Public Relations and Marketing:

pass along a gift
Take a gift or pass it along. | Image courtesy Unsplash user Kira auf der Heide

5.  Pass the Gift – Set a spending limit and collect the gifts before the exchange. At the party, everyone sits in a circle. Randomly select a gift from the table and give it to a member of the group while music is playing. The gift is passed around the circle. When the music stops whoever holds the gift gets and opens it, then steps out of the circle. The game continues until all gifts are passed out.

6.  Scavenger Hunt – A fun game for an office. Before the party collect gifts from the staff and hide them around the office. Provide hints about their locations. Everyone begins the game at the office entrance. Each keeps the gift they find and drops out of the game so that everyone ends up with a gift.

7.  Who Votes Wins – Another great one for an office party. Pick three easily accessed stores. Everyone tells you three things they would want under the gift amount from them. Put the name of each person and the three gifts they selected on a voting slip. Every person votes on the gift they think the co-worker most wants. You buy the most voted gift to give that person.

The following games are suggested by Funattic.com:

Christmas presents under tree
Give a gift, get a gift! | Image courtesy Unsplash user freestocks.org

8.  Hot Potato – A variation on the children’s game. As usual, everyone brings a gift. A circle forms and the group is given one gift. They pass it around after the host starts a timer. When the timer stops, whoever holds the gift gets it. The game continues until everyone has a gift.

9.  Gift Auction – Everyone trades their gift for money. Each receives the same amount. Not real money, of course, but Monopoly money. The host can serve as auctioneer. Whoever bids the most gets the gift. The game continues until everybody has a gift.

10.  The Numbers Game – As the guests show up, the host takes their gifts and writes a number on them, then hands them a piece of paper with the same number on it. They write an unusual fact about themselves and put the paper in a hat. The host pulls out the paper and reads the fact but not the number. People guess who the fact is about. The first person who guesses correctly gets the gift. The game continues until all gifts are claimed.

These games are all conducive to laughter and fun, and building a sense of fellowship and camaraderie. Of course party organizers and participants may mix and match any or all of the rules. The only limit is your imagination.

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