Secret Santa Rules

Secret Santa rules vary depending on who is participating but it is a great way to give gifts in a group without everyone having to buy multiple gifts.

How to Run a Secret Santa and Keep Everyone Happy

Secret Santa is a great way to exchange gifts with a large group without needing to buy gifts for everyone. It also ensures that everyone gets a gift and avoids spending more or less than others.

For this democratic process to work, there are a few rules that you need to follow. Before you have everyone throw his or her name in a hat, you should ensure that you understand how secret Santa works.

The Basics of Running a Secret Santa

The basic secret Santa rules are not too complicated. You may also choose to alter them to suit the needs of your group. However, there are several standard procedures, including:

  • Drawing names
  • Setting the gift values
  • Dealing with trades

For the gift exchange to work properly, everyone needs to agree on the secret Santa rules before getting started. The basic steps involve placing everyone’s name in a hat or bag and taking turns drawing names.

Everyone places one name in the hat and takes one name. With this system, everyone gives one gift and receives one gift. If you draw your own name, you place the name back in the hat and draw again.

People are also expected to keep the names that they draw secret; otherwise, it would not be a secret Santa gift exchange.

That is the standard process for running a secret Santa. However, you may need to consider implementing a few additional rules to keep everyone happy.

Setting a Minimum and Maximum Gift Limit

A secret Santa gift exchange works when everyone sticks to a set gift-giving spending limit. You do not want someone to receive a $10 knickknack after giving someone else a $50 gift card.

Most people set a minimum and maximum amount. As most people still need to purchase gifts for their family, they may not want to spend too much on the secret Santa gift.

For an office secret Santa exchange, consider keeping the spending limit low, such as $25. That is low enough that it does not place financial stress on anyone and high enough to find a great gift.

Deciding How to Deal with Name Trades

There are occasions when someone will want to trade names to avoid giving a gift to a specific individual. Deciding how to deal with name trades is another essential part of establishing rules for your secret Santa gift exchange.

You can either explicitly prohibit people from trading names or allow them to trade. Your policy on name trading should be discussed before anyone draws names. If anyone disagrees with the policy, he or she can choose to not partake in the gift exchange.

Set a Date for the Secret Santa Gift Exchange

The final step in planning your gift exchange is to set a date. If this is an office gift exchange, you may not see your co-workers on Christmas. In fact, depending on where you work, you may not seem them for a couple of weeks.

The easiest solution is to schedule the exchange for the last day before Christmas vacation. However, it should be a day when everyone is expected to be at work. If the last day is on a Tuesday and several co-workers are leaving the previous weekend, the Friday before the weekend may be the best option.

What Types of Gifts Should You Give?

Along with the rules of the gift exchange, you may stress over the gifts. If you need secret Santa gift ideas, consider who you are giving the gift to and what type of group is involved in this gift exchange.

For example, if you are running a secret Santa for your co-workers, the gifts should be work appropriate. You may not want to give a crude novelty gift for someone to open in front of his or her co-workers.

Gift cards are not recommended. Part of the fun of this exchange is getting to find something that the gift recipient can truly appreciate. Instead of buying a variety of gifts for different people, you can focus on what this one person really wants.

Can You Use Secret Santa for Family Christmases?

While your children may not like the idea of a secret Santa for the immediate family, it is a suitable option for exchanging gifts with the extended family.

As people start getting married and having kids, the size of the extended family can grow quickly. When you used to shop for eight or ten people, you now have twice as many people to buy gifts for.

When considering secret Santa gift ideas for a family gift exchange, you should still set a spending limit. Families can spend more on each other for their individual Christmases. However, for the extended family gift exchange, set a minimum and maximum amount, such as $20 to $40.

You may also need to modify the secret Santa rules for your family. With the standard name-drawing process, there is a chance that some people may draw the names of immediate family members instead of their cousins, aunts, or uncles.

Typically, if you draw your own name, you need to place it back in the hat and draw again. You should also replace the name when you draw the names of your own children or your partner. When you finish, everyone should have a name from one person from another family.

Secret Santa Is Great for Large Groups

With a large group of people celebrating Christmas together, there may be pressure for everyone to buy something for everyone else. No one wants to buy Christmas presents for a dozen or more co-workers. A secret Santa gift exchange solves that problem.

With this simple process, everyone in the group gives one gift and receives one gift. The main rule is that you draw names out of a hat and keep the drawing secret.

Do not forget to set a spending limit for the gifts. This helps people avoid embarrassment and the stress of gift giving.

If you want to ensure that everyone is happy with the exchange, remember to make sure that everyone understands the rules before drawing names.

There is an alternative to Secret Santa that is a lot of fun – the White Elephant Gift Exchange game.