secret santa

One of the more popular holiday games, Secret Santa is a fun and easy way for a group of friends, family members or co-workers to exchange gifts. This together with a spread of all of Santa's favourite foods would make even the "Scrooge"iest or "Grinch"iest person jolly!


Santa Steps
Collect all the names of all the family, friends or colleagues and place them into a hat or box and mix them up. Names are drawn from a bowl at a gathering and have each person choose one name from the box. They must not tell anyone which name was picked. That person now becomes a "Secret Santa" and has to buy a gift for the person whose name was pulled out of the box.

Besides the fun of trying to figure out who your secret Santa is, you yourself get to sneak around, doing nice things on the sly for your assigned person. Some Santas even send their recipients sweet notes or small gifts throughout the holiday season. Santas are revealed on the day of the party, when they hand out their final gifts.

The Secret Santa buys a gift that they hope the recipient will appreciate. When the Secret Santa wraps the gift, they should label it with the recipient's name but not indicate who the present is from. It's the secrecy that makes this fun.

All the gifts are then placed in a general area for opening at a designated time. Perhaps schedule a lunch for the event. When the gift-giving time arrives, each recipient finds his/her gift and must guess who their Secret Santa is. If they can't guess, their Secret Santa eventually confesses.

There are various traditions and ways in which a "Secret Santa" is run. In some variations, 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 limit to how much can be spent on the present.


Start the Secrecy
To invite everyone to take part in the Secret Santa download our free Secret Santa card template. Print these onto A6 postcards, and remember to include the party details and any rules about the Secret Santa - it may be as simple as - Buy a gift to the value of R50.


Invitation Wording:
"We're playing Secret Santa,
Please say you'll be here,
Let's celebrate the season,
with good friends and good cheer."


Pick your Partner
This Santa Mouth bowl or Santa's big boot are the perfect containers to place everyone's name in for selecting their Secret Santa. At the party, these can then be filled with sweets.


Claus Christmas Tree
Have a tree as an ode to the man himself, filled with all things Santa! From belted baubles to fur trimmed clothes.

For a tree topper, make a Santa hat from red fabric trimmed with white fur. Visit for the template and make one for your tree, or the same pattern can equally be used to make a Santa hat for yourself, or one for all of your guests.

Plain red baubles can be decorated with black ribbon and gold glitter buckles (use a glitter pen) to look like Santa's belt.

For a tree and table decoration in one, set up small fake or real fir trees on the tabletop, and make miniature hats to place on the top. Decorate with small Christmas baubles or red and white pom poms.


Santa Setting
Start off by covering the table in a red tablecloth trimmed in white fur, you may wish to use a red velvet reminiscent of Santa's suit. Instead of a tablecloth trim red runners with white fur, or even red wrapping paper with a white paper trim will make an effective and inexpensive alternative.

For decorations be inspired by Santa's jelly belly, and specifically his one of a kind black belt and gold buckle. Wrap glass cylindrical vases of varying heights and widths in red scrapbooking paper, and trimmed with white fur trim. Buckle these up with black satin ribbon and gold buckles cut out from shiny gold cardboard. Similarly make buckle belts to be wrapped around red pillar candles and red napkins for serviette rings. For the vase also add two or three white buttons above the belt.

To add interest, you may wish to decorate more vases and candle with different but coordinating scrapbook paper or high quality wrapping paper. These can be embellished with a wide variety of Christmas themed ribbons and stick ons. To add height fill the vases with feathers, baubles or glitter Christmas sprigs, and sprinkle some of these items around the centerpiece.

Make things even dressier by using only black, white and red napkins, crockery and cutlery.


Santa Snacks
Serve a buffet of sweet and savoury tidbits, all of Santa and his reindeers' favourites.

Mini Pork Pies
Vegetable Crudités with Cream Cheese
Mini Quiches

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Mince Pies

Hot Chocolate

To make things a little more interesting year on year, here are some popular variations of Secret Santa.

Thieving Secret Santa
In this version, participants bring one gift to the swap that 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. Participants draw numbers from a bowl to determine the order in which they pick presents. The person who gets number one starts by choosing and unwrapping a package. The person with number two follows and has the choice of keeping and unwrapping his or her gift or swapping with number one. Each subsequent participant may either keep his or her unwrapped gift or swap with anyone who has already opened a gift. (By the way, anyone who is asked to swap a present must do so.) With this game, you can never be sure what you'll end up taking home, but that's the fun of it. People going last are considered more fortunate because they get to see what the previous participants had selected. This game is also known as the White Elephant Gift Exchange, Yankee Swap, Dirty Santa, or the Grinch game.

Secret Santa over Several Days
In this variation, the gift giving occurs over several days. Typically, on a daily basis some small gift is secretly delivered to each person with an emphasis on creativity to make it fun. Examples include, a homemade card, a poem, sweets, a trinket, a snack or a little piece of art. By playing this game over several days, the tension mounts and everyone is curious as to exactly who their personal ‘Secret Santa' is. On the last day of the activity, the gift usually reveals the identity of the ‘Secret Santa'. This could also be played by agreeing on a certain place then all the Secret Santas hide their gifts and then put small clues with the name of the person who they are Secret Santa to, which the gift is hidden. Another way is to let the person leave a note for their Secret Santa. This note could be in any format - a poem, a note, etc - but always implies that the person knows who their Santa is.

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 rands into a money 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.

Lucky Packet
Start a tradition of giving one another a lucky packet. You are given someone's name a month before, and you have to buy five presents each for R20 or less, for a total of R100. It's a real challenge, but once you start looking, you'd be surprised at what you can find. A lucky packet filled with foods or fragrant soaps and lotions is a gift that will please most anyone.


Something Small
As the whole party is designed around gift giving, it is not necessary to have favours. But if it is tradition, for example for your boss or company to give everyone a gift or a Christmas card, this may be a good opportunity to hand these out. Then at least if their Secret Santa gift is a bit of a dud, they will go home with something nice!