Secret Santa, where you give gifts anonymously, started life in Scandinavia. In Sweden it is known as Julklapp, a combination of “Jul”, which means ‘Christmas’, and “Klapp”, which means “knocking.” Tradition dictates that you knock loudly on the door, then when it is opened throw the gift into the room. Or if you are more sensible, you knock, then leave it on the doorstep before anyone opens the door.
Secret Santa has become popular in the UK, and this year it’s likely to become even more popular, particularly among large families looking for ways to spend less. More than a third of families have taken part in Secret Santa in the past, according to a survey carried out by Sook – a company that installs pop-up shops in empty stores – and this year, more than half (55 per cent) are thinking of doing so, it says.
Research by online auction site eBay revealed that 29 per cent of Brits are planning to spend less on Christmas this year, with gift giving looking set to bear the brunt – almost a third of consumers (31 per cent) said they plan to buy fewer gifts this year compared to last year.
For those that don’t know, the idea of Secret Santa is you are randomly allocated the name of one person who you will buy for within an agreed budget. You must keep your identity as the giver a secret – this is necessary because the person who receives it guesses who it’s from. The idea is that instead of buying presents for a whole group of people, you buy for just one.
When setting your maximum budget, compromise is key to ensure everyone can afford to take part. Too low, and it’s a miserable Christmas. Too high, and you are setting up awkward obligations.
Spread the love, reduce the costs
Alina Jaffer, a personal finance expert at Virgin Money, said: “This classic office gifting tradition is one that you might want to consider for wider family and friend groups. Buying one present rather than multiple is guaranteed to cut costs.”
Sook’s research suggests that people will spend an average of £50 on immediate family for Secret Santa presents. But it can help being clear that you don’t have to spend the maximum.
The Miltons, Vincents and Innesses, from Kent and Sussex spend Christmas together every year. They have done Secret Santa for the past five years among the six adults, who are two grandparents, two sisters and their husbands. Between them, they have five children between the ages of seven and 13.
“We started it because everyone was buying for everyone and it got really expensive” says Lindsey Milton, 41, “also people were getting things they didn’t really want or use. So each of us six adults buys for one other person with a budget of £100.”
Secret Santa names used to be drawn out of a hat on a scrunched up bit of paper but these days there are apps and websites to help.
Draw Names, Elfster and Secret Santa Generator are among those you can download and are free to use. You set up the Secret Santa and share with your other participants.
You can set up exclusions, too, so, partners don’t end up buying for each other and obviously, the apps are clever enough that you don’t draw your own name. You can also set it up so that you don’t draw the same person as last year.
The apps also allow participants to set up wish lists so you don’t have to guess what they want.
Lindsey uses the Draw Names website, she said: “It works well. You add your wish list, which gets sent to the person buying for you and they can ask more specific questions if needed. It’s very easy to use: you get what you really want whether that’s one big thing or lots of small things, meaning less waste.
“We’ve never had any disputes other than the budget – my dad still thinks you can buy things for under £10, but he’s come round to it now. I usually still end up buying my husband’s presents for whoever he has drawn but that’s just because he’s so busy. We also set our partners as exclusions so you wouldn’t draw them. We’ve really not had to refine it. It’s great, I love it! It makes life a lot easier and reduces stress.”
Isaac Langridge, eight, does Secret Santa with his family in Tunbridge Wells every year. Here said: “You pick a name from the pot and don’t tell a soul then you buy a present for a maximum of £10. Children must use their own money. It has to be something the person receiving will think is funny but not anything that will just sit in a drawer or be thrown in the bin.
“All presents get wrapped in the same brown paper. Everyone gets a list of all names printed from the computer and they cut out the one they need. A box or bag will be left in the hallway where everyone can put their presents. No one must look or there will be a forfeit. Presents are given on Christmas Eve.”
Finally, remember that your handwriting will be a giveaway so printed name labels are key – if you’ve gone to the effort of setting up a Secret Santa, you don’t want to spoil the fun at the last minute.