Secret Santa

As the festive season draws closer, it's time to think about how you're going to celebrate with your family and friends this year. A fun and enjoyable way to do that is by having a Secret Santa gift exchange. With its roots in Christmas, Secret Santa is one of the most popular ways to celebrate the festive season. But what is Secret Santa? How do you organise it? And what are the Secret Santa rules? Read on and find out.

Already familiar with Secret Santa? Invite your friends, family or colleagues to draw names for a Secret Santa gift exchange!
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Secret Santa gifting

What is Secret Santa?

Secret Santa is a Christmas tradition. Participants are randomly assigned someone to buy or make a gift for. This is usually done by drawing names. The original ‘Secret Santas’ were the gift-bearing helpers of St Nicholas. Today, it’s celebrated as a gift exchange during a get-together with family and friends. Or as a way to give usually busy colleagues the chance to get to know each other better – as a Secret Santa office party. Organising a Secret Santa gift exchange means creating a moment for excitement and having fun together. There’s always the anticipation of “Who will be my Secret Santa?” And it’s usually a great surprise!

Planning a Christmas gift exchange? Use our online Secret Santa generator!

Traditionally, Secret Santa is played as a gift exchange using a draw, typically by drawing names out of a hat. Looking for other fun ways to do a gift exchange? Try a White Elephant gift exchange or a Yankee Swap.

Secret Santa gift exchange
The most popular way to exchange Christmas gifts with friends, family or colleagues is by doing a Secret Santa gift exchange. A group comes together and everyone writes down their name on a piece of paper. Each participant then draws a random name out of a hat, and after that they all make wish lists. But you don’t have to do it with papers and hats anymore! Instead, you can draw names online - and create wish lists easily - using a Secret Santa generator like

White Elephant gift exchange
A White Elephant gift exchange is a popular variation of the classic Secret Santa gift exchange. The term White Elephant refers to something that’s more trouble than it's worth. At a White Elephant gift exchange, people bring wrapped unmarked gag or joke gifts, the sillier the better. Participants take turns unwrapping the gifts and trying to steal them from each other.

Yankee Swap game
This version of the Secret Santa gift exchange has rules similar to White Elephant. Each participant brings a wrapped unmarked gift. The difference with White Elephant is that Yankee Swap gifts are supposed to be useful or practical. The rules of unwrapping and stealing gifts still make this version of a Secret Santa gift exchange a lot of fun!

Secret Santa rules

Secret Santa gift exchange rules

The Secret Santa rules are simple:

  1. Have everyone taking part in the Secret Santa celebration write down their name on a piece of paper.
  2. Set a budget and ask everyone to make a wish list with two or three gift suggestions.
  3. Now it’s time to draw names. Let each participant draw a name from the hat, jar or bowl.
  4. Next, pick a date for your Secret Santa gift exchange. Make sure everyone is available.
  5. Time for the celebration. Get together and exchange gifts.

Online Secret Santa generator

The easiest way to organise your Secret Santa gift exchange is to draw names online. Then there's no risk of you drawing yourself, and there are no slips of paper to lose. supports email, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. You can also share your results via a text message. Each participant can make their wish list online. It’s never been easier to share the joy of gift-giving and to celebrate together!
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The best Secret Santa gift ideas

Looking for good Christmas gift ideas? Our gift finder is packed with great Secret Santa gifts. It's easy to filter on age, gender, budget and categories to find the most popular Secret Santa gifts for anyone.
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Secret Santa gifts