Christmas Gift Giving: Making Secret Santa Work for You

When families start to grow, Christmas gifts can become an expensive proposition if individual members have to buy separate gifts for everyone. Many families will choose to go with the Secret Santa this year, where each family member buys a gift for only one or two others.

But like everything else, Secret Santa only works well if everyone agrees on the rules. Here are a few pointers to consider:

Decide Who Gives To Whom

In our family, there are an equal number of adults to children, so each adult buys one adult and one child present. Everyone under 16 is excluded from buying for the Secret Santa. Discuss with your family the best and fairest method that works for everyone.

Keep the Secret!

Print out the names on your Secret Santa list on a computer and cut the names into separate pieces of paper. Put the required number of names in an envelope and put the envelopes in a box. Mix them well. Let everyone pick out an envelope. If some family members live at a distance, send them their Secret Santa envelopes without checking what's inside.

Set a Cost Limit

You will need to set a limit for the cost of presents that everyone feels comfortable with. A limit of €30-€50 is a good range, but you can set it higher or lower according to your family's circumstances. Encourage everyone to use their imagination if the limit is low. Something imaginative and creative will be just as welcome as something expensive. It really is the thought that counts!

Set a Deadline

Make sure the Secret Santa's are sent out well in advance of Christmas to give people time to plan the right present. Ideally, Secret Santa's should be distributed no later than mid November, but the earlier the better. Discuss with your family when the majority would prefer to be notified.

Getting Round the Distance Question

When family members live at a distance from each other, this can cause problems with Secret Santa's. The postmark alone will give away the fact that it's from Uncle Joe, if he is the only one living in Sacramento! One way to overcome this is to let those visiting relatives for the holidays to pick up and deliver parcels. The cost of postage can also be prohibitive, so gift cards, redeemable at local stores, can be sent to the one organising the Secret Santa, and posted on this way postage will be saved, and the secret can be kept!

How About Odd Numbers?

Last year, we found ourselves a child short of an even number of adults and children. We solved this by adding `the unknown child' to the Secret Santa list. The adult who received the unknown child had to buy a present for the Wishing Tree at their local mall. If you find yourself with an odd number, consider a donation as a present. The birth of a new grandchild has evened the numbers this year, but the `unknown child' remains a part of our gift giving.

author: Gail Kavanagh

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