What is Secret Santa? How does it work, what generator can I use to choose present recipients, plus gift ideas

Secret Santa is a fun festive tradition that is growing in popularity

Christmas is a time for togetherness and traditions - and one tradition that many people take part in during the festive season is Secret Santa.

Secret Santa involves a group of connected people - usually family members, friends or co-workers - who each decide they are going to give one other person in the group a present but, as the name suggests, this will be done anonymously.  Every person in the group will give a gift and also receive a gift.

The tradition is becoming increasingly popular, and in 2022 many families are using Secret Santa as an effective way of cutting down their festive spend as the cost of living crisis continues to cause financial strain for many, while also ensuring that every person receives a gift.

So, what exactly is Secret Santa, how does it work, how can you easily assign a gift recipient to each person taking part, and what can you buy for a present?

Here’s what you need to know.

What exactly is Secret Santa, and how does it work?

Secret Santa is a Western Christmas tradition in which members of a group each agree they are going to give one other person in the group a present. They are all randomly assigned a person to buy a gift for. As the name suggests, the identity of the gift giver must remain a secret and should not be revealed within the group.

Each member of the group then comes together to exchange the presents, and only once the gifts have been unwrapped can the identity of the gift giver be revealed. Some people may wish to write a short letter to accompany their gift so that the recipient may guess who they are prior to the identity reveal.

Secret Santa is a fun festive tradition that is growing in popularity.Secret Santa is a fun festive tradition that is growing in popularity.
Secret Santa is a fun festive tradition that is growing in popularity.

Some groups of people choose to set budget limits on the presents so that every person in the group is given a gift of the same value. Some also choose to set certain rules about the type of present which can be bought, for example joke presents only.

What generator can I use to help choose present recipients?

If you want some help assigning Secret Santa recipients there are multiple websites out there which can help you to do that. They each ask you to submit your list of participant’s names, and then that list will be scrambled and all users will then receive a message or an email with the name of their Secret Santa gift buddy. The identity of every Secret Santa will be a secret, even to the person who inputs all the names.

There’s a free website called Elfster, which comes up as one of the top searches on Google. There’s also another free website literally called Secret Santa Organiser. If you’d prefer an app, look up apps called Draw Names and Santa’s Secret Keeper in your app store. There’s also an Elfster app.

What can I buy for a Secret Santa present?

There are many different presents you could buy for your Secret Santa, from food and drink, to health and beauty and technology, and even personalised gifts. The best present to buy, of course, depends on the person you are buying for - and the most thoughtful gifts come from really knowing the person you are buying for and then thinking about a present they would truly appreciate.

For the foodie, a festive hamper, or even a kitchen gadget depending on the budget, will be well received. For a beauty lover, a skincare or make-up kit is a good option. For those who enjoy technology, a portable speaker or even a subscription for something their favourite device - for example a Kindle voucher or Spotify voucher - is worth considering. For those tricky recipients who seem to have everything then a puzzle, a planter or a book could be a good way to go. For even more present ideas, check out our Secret Santa gifts for under £30 guide.

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