Every year, December brings holly jolly feelings to the workplace: a stash of candy canes on the conference table, the smell of leftovers wafting from the microwave, kitschy holiday jewelry, and of course, Secret Santa. The game that gets you feeling both merry and panicky once you realize you actually know nothing about your coworkers.
My favorite part of Secret Santa comes after the final gifts have been unwrapped. The bamboozling task of figuring out “who had who.” As an undefeated Secret Santa — meaning someone who has never been guessed correctly — I leave these tips for a truly secret game and wish you the best of luck.
Day one. We just drew names. This is a great time to start investigating in a purposely-obvious way. Ask one or two people about items they have in their workspace. Plant a false seed that makes them think you’re their Santa.
I like to get one person convinced that I’m their Secret Santa. They will usually share their suspicions with other coworkers, creating a snowball of deception and taking you out of the running in their head.
With varying budgets, it’s difficult to give gift-specific tips, but there are a few methods that can have a throw-‘em-off-the-trail effect. Try buying something more expensive and giving a portion of the gift every day.
If the budget is set at a mere Washington, you can’t go wrong heading to the dollar store. Try to get them something that they will like — but don’t give gifts related to inside jokes or you will be had! No idea what the person likes? You can’t go wrong with lotto tickets!
Wrapping the Gift
When wrapping your gifts, use a paper that your recipient wouldn’t expect you to use. Borrow from family/friends or buy a cheap roll of something that is completely not your taste (Justin Bieber heads on a light blue background, anyone?). Any little trick to take them off the course helps.
Protip: If you do use your own wrapping paper, make sure you don’t post photos of your personal Christmas tree on Facebook, lest your recipient notice presents wrapped in the same paper under your tree.
Getting a person of the opposite gender to write the tag for you is a good trick, but you know what’s better? Having someone from the same gender write it. The have-your-significant-other-write-the-note trick is old. People expect it these days. You could try clipping letters from a magazine, ransom-style, but I personally like the challenge of the handwritten tag. Ask a friend or a relative to write the tags for you. Better yet, ask a different person to write the tag every day.
My favorite Secret Santa story is from when I worked at a large company that hosted a company-wide Secret Santa. It’s so expected that you would have someone else deliver the gifts for you that I just walked mine right up to my own recipient every day and gave them their gift — it was so obvious that they had no idea it was me!
Another great option for gift delivery is to leave the present in a common area of your office like a break room or kitchen with the hopes that a) they will stumble upon the gift, or b) someone else will deliver it for you without you having to ask.
Breaking expectations is the name of the game when it comes to a truly Secret Santa. I hope some of these tips will help you up your holiday game but be warned; they might be expecting these to happen. If that’s the case, do the opposite!