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 Christendom tradition, the ritual is known as Secret Santa in the United States, Kris Kringle or Chris Kindle (Christkindl) in Ireland, Secret Santa, Kris Kringle or Chris Kindle (Christkindl) in parts of Austria, Secret Santa or Kris Kringle in Canada, and the Philippines (where it is also known as Monito-monita). All of these names derive from traditional Christmas gift-bringers: the American custom is named after Santa Claus, 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. migo invisible (invisible friend). Most places in Latin America use amigo secreto.
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, Dirty Santa, Devil's Santa, Nasty Christmas, Yankee Swap, Swap of Northern Agression, Snatchy Christmas Rat, Chinese Christmas or the Grinch game.
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.
- Derangement - Calculating the number of possible outcomes