By Professional Organiser Jennifer Manefield of Jennifer’s Decluttering Solutions
Secret Santa…. the easiest way to go or a gift-giving nightmare?
The Christmas tradition of Secret Santa (also known as Kris Kringle) has its origins in philanthropic gestures. Its premise is simple. A budget is set, names drawn from a hat and you have to find the “perfect gift” for the person whose name you’ve been assigned.
Whether part of the required social lubrication in the office where you work; the end of year function at the special interest group you are a member of, or that last-minute dinner party invitation that requires you to provide a Secret Santa gift for another guest, this is something that can cause quite some head scratching and a desperate rummage through the cupboards searching for that perfect something…that you have been given before and never wanted or used.
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a Secret Santa gift, it can be surprisingly thoughtful or slightly underwhelming. The important thing to remember is that it is a momentary gesture to reflect the good will and high spirits of the season. Not a perfect gift competition.
It is a brilliant in a large family where there are lots of brothers and sisters-in-law, partners, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. We all know gift giving can become a real strain on the family budget. The quantity of gifts each child receives becomes absurd. They have no idea who gave them what and these gifts are often under appreciated.
So here are a few pointers to nail the Secret Santa.
Set the rules. How do you draw the names of the person who will be the giftees? Will they know who gives the gift or will it remain a secret?
The budget. Set it and be respectful of it. We all know people who like to “show-off” in a financial sense. Don’t be that person.
Know your giftee or keep it simple. It can be hard to have a casual conversation to elicit information about people’s tastes. Take the time to observe and listen to them. What colours do they love? Are they always talking about the great coffee shop they found, their Friday night cocktails or dishes that they’ve cooked? Their garden, pet or grandchildren? Are they always impeccably groomed and take pride in how they look? Are they renowned for losing their keys? All will point you in the right direction.
Avoid overly personal gifts in a Secret Santa setting. The piece of expensive or heirloom jewellery you were planning to give your niece should not be given during Secret Santa if you’ve drawn her name out of the hat. It may be misconstrued as favouritism if it is out of proportion with everyone else. Stick to the budget and the spirit of the game…because that’s what Secret Santa is. You can give it later in a more private setting. The same goes for gifts for your office crush!
Have a sense of fairness. I’m thinking particularly of big families and a large range of children. If you are the unpartnered aunt, uncle or the grandparent, who loves to spoil everyone and can’t help breaking the Secret Santa rules, then give everyone the same thing…. but keep it age appropriate. A fun water bottle or lunch bag is something you can find for all ages. An outing to the Zoo for the littlies and a Theme park for the older children. It is often the shared experiences that make the best and most fun memories.
A sense of humour is a wonderful thing…but can be a minefield. Avoid religion, sexism, racism: all things not politically correct. May not be the best time to discover your colleague is a fan of Donald Trump when you are not, or vice versa.
Receive your gift graciously. You can regift it later in the season or the following year if it just doesn’t suit. Note who you got it from or in which setting if the gifter is to remain anonymous. You don’t want to accidently give it back to them a year later. You may not need another bottle opener. You may not love the perfume of the candle, or bodywash you’ve been given but think how special it could be as part of the annual Share the Dignity drive. So, save it to support your community or gift it to your local charity shop.
Change it up!
Giving your Secret Santa a theme can actually make it less stressful for those who are gift-givingly challenged. “Hand-made” gives scope to the creatives as well as those who are happy to support local business by buying handmade chocolates or Christmas cakes. It can even be something to make!
“Summertime” gives you scope to please everyone and of all ages.
In the year of Covid what could be better than travel themed gifts? It feels like we have all waited so long to step confidently out of the front door. We’ll explore our country for now, and so Secret Santa gifts, whether for the now or the bucket list when the world opens up again, will be most welcome and allow you scope to be creative.
Now I hope you go and face that Secret Santa challenge feeling a bit less pressured and a bit more inspired. Enjoy it, I hope you are now feeling inspired!