Secret Santa is a Western Christmas tradition in which members of a group or community are randomly assigned a person to whom they anonymously give a gift. Often practiced in workplaces or amongst large families, participation in it is usually voluntary. It offers a way for many people to give and receive a gift at low cost, since the alternative gift tradition is for each person to buy gifts for every other person. In this way, the Secret Santa tradition also encourages gift exchange groups whose members are not close enough to participate in the alternative tradition of giving presents to everyone else.
Deriving from the Christian tradition, the ritual is known as Secret Santa in the United States and the United Kingdom; as Kris Kringle or Kris Kindle (Christkindl) in Ireland; as Secret Santa, Kris Kringle, or Chris Kindle (Christkindl) in parts of Austria; as Secret Santa or Kris Kringle in Canada; and as Secret Santa, Kris Kringle, or Monito-monita in the Philippines. In Poland, the tradition is celebrated on the day of 6 December (Mikołajki). All of these names derive from traditional Christmas gift-bringers: the American custom is named after Santa Claus, or St Nicholas (Poland), while Chris Kindle and Kris Kringle are both corruptions of the original name of the Austrian gift-bringer Christkindl, which means the "Christ Child". Exceptions are Britain (where the traditional gift-bringer is Father Christmas) and the Philippines (which has the Three Kings). Most places in Latin America use amigo secreto (secret friend) or amigo invisible (invisible friend).
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There are various traditions and ways in which a "Secret Santa" is run. In some variations, as Christmas approaches, names of participants are placed in a hat, and participants draw the name of a person for whom to buy a gift. Along with name submission, each participant may also submit a short wish-list of items from which the gift-giver can choose. There is often a strict limit to how much can be spent on the present. Presents are then exchanged anonymously. Many schools and offices do this at Christmas time, often as a cost-saving effort. It usually takes place prior to Christmas because the office and school settings require it. Sometimes people leave hints in cards on desks, others create other special ways to make themselves known.
Often, the gift-getting is practiced with all the presents being placed on a table, marked with the name of the receiver but not the giver. Sometimes the gift-giver will personally give the recipient the present, thereby revealing their identity. Some groups may choose to donate the money they saved on presents to charity.
Thieving Secret Santa / Stealing Secret Santa
In this version, participants (players) bring one gift each which is potentially suitable or interesting to any of the other participants. The gifts should be wrapped in such a way as to disguise their nature. Ideally, the provider of each gift should not be disclosed when setting up the game. Players take turns, and can either open a new gift, or steal a previously opened gift. This game is also known as the white elephant gift exchange, or Yankee Swap.[unreliable source?]
Secret Casino Santa
In this version, each person buys a gift for specific amount, not for anyone specifically. Each person also puts in a specific amount of money into a pot. Who goes first in gift selection can be determined by random selection. The options are:
Option A: Choose a gift
Option B: Do not choose a gift, and go for Money.
Option C: Put your name in to win all the unwanted gifts by those who went for Option B.
At the end, the gifts that were chosen are opened and the winner of the money and leftover gifts are drawn.
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In this version, with origins in the Midwestern United States, names are drawn privately with at least two 3rd-party proctors, at a gathering where all participants are present, traditionally at Thanksgiving, or a different large family gathering. Spouses cannot draw each other, and one may not draw the same person that they had the previous year. As of 2013, the Private Santa gift spending limit was set at fifty dollars[by whom?], but shipping and handling charges to do not count towards the total gift purchase. At the Private Santa unveiling, participants will also map out a grid of participants, attempting to guess all correct Private Santa entrants. Every year, a gift card must be purchased for the prize of guessing the entrants, and if no one guesses correctly, these gift cards are held over for the next year, increasing the prize bucket for correct entries. In many cases, the presentation of the Private Santa gift is a part of the gift itself. After a polite pause when deciding who will give their Private Santa gift first, someone in the group will get excited enough to start the Private Santa gift unveiling. The person who receives a gift is then the next person who gives their gift. If there is a break in the chain of gift giving, another excited participant will jump up and give their gift.
- Derangement - Calculating the number of possible outcomes.
- "Yankee Swappers play gift game". CapeCodOnline.com. 23 December 2007. Retrieved 2011-01-07.
- "Secret Santa". InGoodCompany.co.za. 26 December 2009. Retrieved 2011-09-21.