Secret Santa, also known as Kris Kringle in England, is a Christmas tradition that involves the exchange of anonymous gifts. White Elephant and Yankee Swap are variations on this game. It is common in the workplace and among members of extended families as a way of restricting gift-giving and saving money.
To play Secret Santa, all participants write their names on small pieces of paper and put them in an envelope. Each person then draws a name. The name drawn is the recipient of the gift. When playing this game, participants must agree beforehand on a price limit. This avoids uncomfortable surprises and guarantees that everybody will get something of comparable value.
All the gifts, bearing a name tag, are placed under the tree or in a designated area and opened as a group. Part of the fun is in guessing who the Secret Santa is. If the recipient can't guess after a few tries, confessing is okay.
There are a few dos and don'ts when playing Secret Santa. For starters, there are some unspoken rules about inappropriate gifts. If someone is playing with his or her immediate family, the choice of presents is almost unlimited. If, however, he or she is being drawn to participate in a more "official" Secret Santa, there are some presents that are definitely too personal to be handed over in the office and other work settings. This includes flowers, clothes and accessories, and anything that can be interpreted as too intimate.
To be safe, players may want to stick to gift certificates, a gift basket, or something like a CD or a movie. Players should remember to keep the receiver's taste in mind, though. If he or she doesn't know what the person likes, it's better to play it safe rather than giving something the person may not enjoy.
Over the last few years, some websites have been set up for people who wish to play Secret Santa at a distance. Participants of the same family or group of friends register online and then "draw" the name of the person to whom they must send the present. This is a great solution for large families who are spread out around the country and don't get to meet over the holidays.