Kris Kringle, Secret Santa, call it what you like, I call it a pain in the arse. For those few of you lucky enough to have somehow missed out on this traditional holiday torture, allow me to explain how it works. Secret Santa is usually run for large groups of people such as in the workplace or for extended family. The basic concept of the Secret Santa game is simple. All of the participants’ names are placed into a hat, box, etc. and mixed up. Each person then chooses one name from the box, but doesn’t tell anyone which name was picked. He/she is now responsible for buying a gift for the person selected, there is usually a limit to how much you can spend, usually $10 or $20 and that’s about it. Sounds fun right? Sounds simple?
Wrong! Oh how wrong you are.
This seemingly fun activity is actually a very dangerous social minefield, beware, watch your step.
Use this guide to get through unscathed. Let’s begin:
The Beginning: Picking that random person from the hat
Picking the name from the hat is really the most important step because who you pick here is going to determine just how difficult this process really has to be. My advice here is, try to cheat. If there is any possible way you can turn the odds in your favour, do it. If at all possible try to sneak a peek at the name before you pick it. Call me a Scrooge for taking the “fun” out of things, but trust me when you pull out the name of a coworker you’ve only spoken to once in your life and who seems difficult to read, you’re going to wish you had cheated.
When you pick, make sure you smile and nod and say appropriately nice things about how happy you are to have picked this person. If you pull out a name look at it and say “Oh jesus not this wanker!” then I guarantee that person is going to hear about your reaction eventually. Smile, nod and swear privately to yourself later.
The Process: How To Know What To Buy:
Bath Soaps and Candles
Knowing what to buy for your Secret Santa recipient is probably the hardest and most frustrating part of the process. If you’ve picked someone you know pretty well then you probably have a good idea of what to buy, if you didn’t, well… it sucks to be you. Firstly, let’s look at what your price restrictions are, what are you allowed to spend? $5? $10? $15? It all makes a big difference, here’s a hint though, spent $5 to $10 more than the limit, it’ll stop you looking cheap, and everyone else will probably be doing the same thing.
If you have to buy something for someone you know nothing about, don’t immediately go for the thoughtless candle/soap/chocolate/wine option, it’s lazy and it’s been done to death darling. Use your serial killer style stalking skills to find out more about them.
(note: I do not mean that you should break into their home and molest their cat)
Walk by their desk, take notice of what might be on it, is that a Justin Bieber CD? My they have horrible taste, but perhaps they would like a nice poster to go with that CD. Is that a copy of the alcoholic’s anonymous book? Aren’t you glad you didn’t buy them that wine? Likewise, notice what they wear, what tv shows and movies they talk about, what video games they might mention any of these clues may guide you towards a semi-thoughtful gift idea, just don’t be to creepy in your lurking or you may end up with a restraining order.
Don’t give an inappropriate gift, save the penis straws for your real friends, the rule of thumb here should be if you don’t know this person well enough to sit down and have coffee together outside of work, then you don’t know them well enough to give them a box of chocolates shaped like breasts.
If you really want to be a lazy little bunny, go with the voucher option, let them pick their own gift, but definitely no candles or soap. Not ever. Giving someone soap just makes them think that you are questioning their personal hygiene.
The most important hing is to remember to buy something. The worst possible thing you can do in Kris Kringle is forget to buy a gift, and if for some stupid reason you do forget, just hand over some cash, do not, under any circumstances attempt to pull something out of the glove box of your car and try to pass it off as a gift. No one will buy it.
The End: Looking Gracious And Practising Your Fake Smile
So you’ve made it, you’ve bought your gift and put it in the communal pile and now this nightmarish tradition is over right? Not so fast my friend, you forgot the other half of this evil game, you forgot that some other poor schmuck pulled your name from that hat. Some other person has been stressing and figuring out what to buy for you. Traditionally secret santa gifts are opened in a communal setting, everyone sitting together and watching each other open their gifts. So watch out because when you open that gift, you had better smile, and you had better make it convincing, and believe me that may be difficult. Here’s a few scenarios you may have to face “Oh my! A christian wall hanging! Why… I’ve always wanted a reminder that jesus died for my sins, how swell!”
Or how about “Gee! A weight watchers book, how thoughtful of you to remind me that I need to lose a few kilos, how charming!” You need to be prepared for the worst here people, and you need to be prepared to act your arse off. If you open your gift and the disgust registers on your face, you’re going to hurt some poor morons feelings, you wouldn’t be happy if they opened your gift and said “Oh great! I’m allergic to dairy so this milkshake maker is the perfect gift jackass!” Just keep smiling, keep pretending and this whole horrible charade will be over for another year.
I know it’s been said, many times, in many ways, but my god Christmas blows.