Secret Santa

As the days grow shorter and the holiday season draws closer, people have always gathered with family and friends in togetherness and joy. With its roots in Christmas, Secret Santa has become one of the most popular traditions to celebrate with family, friends and co-workers in the spirit of the holidays. But what is Secret Santa and how did it come about?

Are you already familiar with Secret Santa? Then you can start drawing names straightaway!
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What is Secret Santa? One of the most beloved gift exchange traditions

Secret Santa is a gift exchange tradition that has its roots in early Christmas traditions. The original ‘Secret Santas’ were the gift-bearing helpers of St. Nick. Today, it’s celebrated as a gift exchange occasion that renews bonds between family and friends, and as a moment to solidify connections between usually busy co-workers – like a Secret Santa office party. Creating a Secret Santa gift exchange means creating a moment of togetherness and delight. There’s always the anticipation of “who will be my Secret Santa?” It’s always a fun surprise!

Secret Santa

Planning a Secret Santa gift exchange? Play the Secret Santa game!

Traditionally, Secret Santa is played as a gift exchange through a draw, typically by drawing names out of a hat. Today, there are other ways of playing the classic Secret Santa game and new variations like White Elephant and Yankee Swap.

Classic Secret Santa game
This is the mostly widely played version of the Secret Santa gift exchange. A group comes together, everyone writes down their name on a piece of paper, and each participant draws a random name out of a hat. You are the Secret Santa for the person you draw. Next you write down a gift suggestion or two on a wish list and your Secret Santa chooses a gift for you from that list. But of course, you don’t have to do it all with papers and hats anymore, now you can draw and create wish lists easily online using a Secret Santa generator! The fun part of the classic Secret Santa game is keeping a secret and, of course, being surprised by a gift!

White Elephant game
What is White Elephant? It’s a popular version of the classic Secret Santa game, but with an extra twist! The term refers to something that’s more trouble than it's worth, so in the white elephant game, people bring wrapped unlabeled gag gifts. Participants take turns unwrapping the silly gifts and trying to steal them from each other. Check out the White Elephant rules.

Yankee Swap game
This version of the Secret Santa game has rules like those of white elephant in that each participant brings a wrapped unmarked gift. The difference is that Yankee Swap gifts are supposed to be more useful or practical in nature. The silly rules still make this version of the Secret Santa gift exchange a lot of fun!

Secret Santa Rules

How does Secret Santa work? Secret Santa Rules

The rules behind traditional Secret Santa are simple: It’s a mystery for both gift giver and receiver – and that’s the fun!

So, how do you get started with your gift exchange?

  1. You bring a group together. Let each participant write down their name on a piece of paper, and put it in a hat, a box, or other container.

  2. Shake the hat a bit, then give each participant a chance to pick out a name. Of course, you can use our online Secret Santa generator instead – you know you’ll never draw yourself; you can set exclusions and even add another member to the group later. It’s fun and easy, and you can create customized gift guides.

  3. Next, set a budget for how much each participant should spend.

  4. Let each participant make their own customized wish list to let their Secret Santa know whatever their heart desires!

For more detailed rules, or to get inspired to make up your own creative rules, see these Secret Santa rules.

The best Secret Santa gift ideas

Don’t know what gifts you should choose for the Secret Santa celebration? The Gift Finder at is full of great Secret Santa gift ideas. The extensive Gift Finder will make personalized gift suggestions so you can complete your wish list in no time at all! For more Secret Santa inspiration be sure to check out these Secret Santa Ideas.

And if you don’t know what to buy for your favorite relative, just enter their age and gender, and the Gift Finder at will do the rest. You’re sure to find the perfect gift for them to celebrate the holidays!
Secret Santa Gift Ideas