Usually, you're randomly assigned to give another person a gift. You may not know this person well, so you have to just investigate or guess at what they would like. As the receiver of said gift... Well, let's just say it's easy to get disappointed. This is so common, that a spin-off tradition called "white elephant" or "dirty santa" emerged wherein you're *not* supposed to consider what the receiver would actually like.
In either case, no one really gets something they actually want and you spend that time awkwardly chit-chatting while doing so. Honestly, it sucks as a play experience. Fortunately, a fellow named Brian Winkeler of Robot House Creative taught me the rules of a superior form of Secret Santa. I call it Super Secret Santa.
Stuff You Need
- 5-30 players who kinda sorta know each other
- One participant volunteers to be the Head Elf
- A prize (a gift certificate, a bottle of wine, or some other generally nice thing)
- Each player sends the Head Elf a wishlist of three gifts under the price limit.
- The Head Elf anonymizes those lists.
- The Head Elf randomly assigns a list to each player.
- Each player then must purchase one of the gifts on his or her assigned list. Do not wrap the gift!
- The Head Elf prints prepares a list of numbered blank lines, enough for each player to get their own blank list.
- The Head Elf arranges a display of all the gifts with numbers beside each one.
- The Head Elf hands a blank list to each player as they arrive at the party.
- Amidst drinks and food, the Players spend the party figuring out who wished for which gift. Debate and subterfuge is encouraged!
- Later on in the party, the Head Elf then gathers all the players to one room.
- The Head Elf picks up each gift and asks "Who wished for ____?"
- The Players then shout their answers.
- The Head Elf reveals the correct answer, to groans and cheers from the crowd.
- The Player who guesses the most gifts correctly wins the prize.
- Ties are rare, but if they can be broken by correctly answering trivia questions about the Head Elf.
When you wish for a gift, don't wish for something generic like a bottle of wine or a gift card. It makes guessing really difficult and no fun. Instead, pick a gift that says something about your personality, possibly that the rest of the group didn't know about you. This can also throw off guesses and reveals who knows who best. Plus: Everyone gets something they want!