The 2023 season of giving is right around the corner, and with that comes the high stakes of gifting friends, family, and loved ones with the best of the best.
The stakes rise even higher as certain games and rules come into play, where all eyes are on this one present that is supposed to match up to all the others — including Secret Santa gifts!
No one wants to be the person who gave the worst gift in the room!
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Breaking Down the Most Popular Christmas Game: Secret Santa
But what is Secret Santa?
That’s the million-dollar question many friends and families ask themselves when the holidays roll around, including: “What are the best Secret Santa ideas?” Let’s dive into everything someone needs to know this holiday in order to be a gift-giving champion.
First thing’s first: Secret Santa is a gift-giving game played by at least three people and up to however many friends want to join.
The goal is to ensure that instead of having to shop for every single person in the group, friends can save some money and only buy one item.
The Secret Santa Rules: The 411 on Christmas’s Main Event
2023 has been quite a year, so it’s extra important to spread exciting holiday cheer and learn the proper Secret Santa rules! An interactive game that involves yummy food and gift-giving is an amazing way to build back some spunk and joy into the dreary days of lockdown.
But, the question remains: how to do Secret Santa?
The Traditional, “OG” Rules
Back in the day when technology couldn’t do everything — before the days of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter or the “like and subscribe”— there were ways of playing the game that didn’t involve too much screen time.
The game served as an easy way to get gifts for coworkers, friends, and family without the fuss and muss of worrying about how many people there are to get gifts for (and how much that would thin out everyone’s wallet).
Here were the rules:
Have Every Person Write Their Name Down and Grab a Name — No Peeking!
Go around in a circle and have everyone write their name down. Place the pieces of paper in a hat and have everyone then pick a name!
Be Sure to Have a Designated Master List
This can be done by having everyone text, email, or call this third-party the name they got. If the host wants to be in charge, they can have everyone report back as well.
Buy a Gift, Receive a Gift
All Secret Santas are to buy a gift before the party and wrap it anonymously, with only the name with only the name for who it is. The host can then decide if he or she wants everyone to grab their gift and guess who gave it to them before opening or after.
How Does Secret Santa Work? The Modern Way to Play
Many people wonder “how does Secret Santa work?” in the world of phones and tech.
The traditional rules don’t really allow for connectivity across the states or even across the globe. Now that there’s a whole world of online community-building, Secret Santa can go there too.
Whether it be cross-continental or just for the sake of keeping parties socially distanced, online party games are just as buoyant.
Here’s how to play:
Set up an Online Gift Exchange
Gather everyone who the group wants to participate in an online gift exchange forum where an email will then go out, solidifying those who wish to join.
Wish-List Creations and Randomizations
The online generator will send each person involved a random name and the wish-list created by them. Should the host want complete free range in gift-giving, wish lists can be left blank.
Send Out a Questionnaire
Suppose a present has some sizing needs, whether it be jewelry from Etsy or a pair of shoes from Amazon. In that case, this online generator can also send the designated person a secret questionnaire.
Set Delivery Dates
Whatever item a Secret Santa wants to send can be shipped directly to their recipient’s address, no matter where he or she is in the world. Just be wary of timing and shipping processes
Set up a Party Link
Whether through Zoom, Facebook call, or Google Chat, let everyone know the link to the party. Have everyone open their present one by one, guessing which Secret Santa is which.
The most important part of Secret Santa is feeling the joy, surprise, and wonder that comes with the season of giving. Picking the right gift can make someone’s day! The more thoughtful and unique the present, the more personalized it will feel!
Secret Santa Gift Ideas: The Best of 2023
Secret Santa gift ideas may sound easy to come up with, but as the day of the present-reveal lurks ahead, a mind can get to scrambling.
Let this article help inspire a creative brainstorm, as there are plenty of fantastic gifts out there just waiting to be bought, wrapped, or shipped.
Gifts for the Home
As Christmas is often celebrated with family, “home sweet home” takes on a whole new meaning and can ultimately make the Secret Santa gifts that adorn it all the sweeter.
Winter Tree Coffee Mugs ($34)
There’s no better way to celebrate the holidays than to sip them right out of beautiful pottery. Etsy has winter tree coffee mugs that look as serene as a snowy winter day. The wonderful winter wonderland reminder will be an asset to anyone’s mug collection — add this to the best Christmas gift ideas for coworkers’ bucket!
Terrarium Candles Kit ($25)
These soy candles can burn up to 35 hours and have plants (a cactus or a poppy, for example) actually set inside the candle for an awesome aesthetic. The effect can be unique and calming.
French Press ($12-$38)
For any coffee lovers out there, a French Press would be too good to be true. Easily available anywhere from Macy’s to Target to Etsy, a coffee machine is a special, luxury item that many don’t afford unless gifted. Be the Santa that finally does!
Mini Succulents ($16-$35)
Another item to include in a list of Secret Santa ideas are a kit of mini succulents. These cute little plants can either be fake or real, and if real, they are simple to take care of. Never out of style, these succulents are sold at The Sill, Urban Outfitters, West Elm, or Amazon.
Bonsai or Juniper Trees ($25-$40)
Easy to ship and send, these trees bring joy and happiness into any room. Symbolic for positivity and long-lasting growth, these trees cause no mess and fit perfectly in an office space for both physical or remote work. Gift ideas for coworkers can be hard to come up with, but this just may be the one!
Wind Chimes ($20-$74)
A personal and thoughtful gift, wind chimes on any Etsy shop range from different designs and styles that can match the tastes of friends, families, and coworkers. The best Secret Santa gifts are those that are original, and this outdoor treasure is nothing but. Perfect for windy days of winter, the light clanging can spark musical whim on the daily!
Felt Letter Board ($17)
This gift allows for re-arranging the mottos, motivations, and to-do’s someone has for the day on a fun, felt letter board (also easily found on Amazon). The board comes with 690 characters in three different sizes.
100 Movies Bucket-List Scratch Off ($12)
No matter if someone has a movie theatre in the basement or all the AMC rewards in the world, this cute, funky gesture of a gift is meant for all movie lovers who pride themselves on seeing as much as cinema as possible.
Mason Tea for Two Set ($38)
A cute, kitschy tea set is always up in the charts for sweet and thoughtful — always useful — best Secret Santa gifts. Shop Anthropologie to find its Mason Tea for Two that is a colorful and quirky take on classic china.
Fair-Trade Textiles ($40-$275)
Check out any fair-trade online store that sells throw blankets and pillows galore that are hand-crafted from countries including Bangladesh, Guatemala, and the Philippines, to name a few. Providing gifts that support these local crafters and artisans is a gift in itself.
Personalized Presents for Loved Ones
The best gestures are often those that speak directly to the person they are made for — individualized items are perfect for sentimentality and expressions of love.
Engraved Cutting Board ($50)
Sometimes, it’s the little things like personalization that go the extra mile when it comes to Secret Santa ideas. Cutting boards can be super useful during the winter season when lots of food is about to be cooked up for celebrations.
Enamel Pin Sets ($5-$20)
Every individual has certain tastes and passions — all these have been translated into enamel pin sets they will be sure to enjoy. 2023 has brought on the time to binge certain shows, research trends, and get on the bandwagon for cultural memorabilia, including enamel pin sets.
Tree of Enchantment Ornament ($25)
The Grommet sells these beautiful, peaceful ornaments that can adorn a tree in simplicity and refinement. The tree of life symbolizes love, growth, and progress and can make for excellent Instagram photo-ops.
Books, Books, Books ($17-$28)
Sometimes, when the clock is a-ticking, Secret Santa gift ideas can roam over to a book or two. 2023 has brought out some amazing books and novels, but classics are always there to make useful presents. Books always come in use!
Made-to-Order Photo Album ($15.99 and up)
People who have everything would definitely appreciate a more thoughtful, personal present where memories come to life on every page. Customizing photos in an online-made photo album can be both affordable and convenient while also heart-felt.
Polaroid Camera ($60-$150)
This kind of camera allows the user to make memories in a sweet and nostalgic way. Sold in any camera or tech shop, Polaroids can take snapshots of time and produce them into tiny photographs right on the spot.
Personalized Travel Maps ($34-$100)
Etsy is rife with gifts galore, and one of these includes personalized travel maps. Friends and families can be given a map of some of the best places they have been or places they would want to go together. Heart-felt and nostalgic, these maps are a treasure to hang up!
Personalized Leather Journals ($20)
Another lovely set of items Etsy is home to is personalized leather journals. These can be engraved with the recipient’s name, a quote, a date, etc. These journals are both useful and down-to-earth.
52 Lists For… ($10-$17)
The “52 Lists” collection of mindful exercises can be found anywhere from Target to Kohls. These mindfulness journals range from “52 Lists for Happiness” to “52 Lists for Calm” to “52 Lists for Bravery.” Essential to anyone with a creative, free spirit, the kit of prompts is a gesture of warmth and joy.
Custom Painting by Numbers ($25-$50)
Gift ideas for Secret Santa sometimes can be a personal activity — for instance: ordering a “painting by numbers” of a photo the recipient loves. This specific painting will have numbers written in its lines that match the kit of numbered paints, making it look exactly like the photo sent in.
Homesick Scented Candle ($34)
No matter who someone is, they have somewhere they came from. The Homesick Candle Collection shows a kind and thoughtful gesture to someone who has a place they miss, whether it be their grandma’s kitchen, the state they used to live in, or a place they want to go to but haven’t yet.
Plush and Fuzzy Socks ($18)
There is no going wrong with providing even the most well-endowed person with plush, fuzzy socks that go above the ankle. Their warmth and holiday-look bring the spirit of the season seamlessly and are easily found on Nordstrom, Amazon, or any other online shop.
Trinket Dishes ($15-$38)
Find any local shop that owns special, artistic, and cutesy trinket dishes that can bring joy to any room. These are especially great for friends or family who own a lot of rings or little things.
Electronics, Devices, and Office Gifts
For the coworkers, the friends, and the family that adore anything tech or utility-based, the list below will be super helpful to reference this Christmas.
Pink Salt Lamp ($12-$30)
These have been coming into style for the past few years and most likely showed up at some point in everyone’s Instagram ad. More often than not, these lamps are hand-made and execute warm energy through the pink salts that can provide comfort in any room, on any table, or desk.
Pocket-Sized Bluetooth Speaker ($20)
Nordstrom sells Lexon Mino Bluetooth speakers that anyone would love to use. The gift of music in a chic, slick-colored speaker — what more can someone ask for?
Yeti Rambler Insulated Coffee Mug ($25)
This useful and practical mug (easily found on Amazon) is a godsend for all coffee/tea lovers. Insulating a hot beverage on a cold day can be just the pick-me-up somebody needs on a snowy, dreary winter day.
Full Moon Lamp ($20)
Amazon sells these affordable and truly realistic-looking moon lamps with sensitive touch screens and long-lasting, rechargeable batteries. The touch screen lets the user change the brightness of the moon as if in charge of the bedroom’s sky.
Portable Desk Air Humidifier ($14)
Amazon also has affordable, mini air humidifiers that complement any desk, allowing extra moisture and water to be released into the air. In a time when most work is remote, Christmas gifts for coworkers like this one are ideal.
Mini Waffle Maker ($18)
Urban Outfitters is home to a mini waffle maker that can spruce up any home, office, kitchen, or bedroom. Who doesn’t want mini waffles made right on the spot? They can be convenient, special, and even amusing.
Leather Mouse Pads ($15-$35)
Found on Etsy, Zazzle, or Leatherology, leather mouse pads are ergonomic, classic, and stylish in their look. They can make any office or workspace look savvier.
Bluetooth Shower Speakers ($20)
Scroll through Amazon and get the friend or loved one who always sings or plays tunes in the shower with some Bluetooth Shower speakers. There’s nothing like being able to groove out knowing the technology won’t get damaged.
Original Vortex Mixer ($23)
If someone in the family, office, or friendship group is a die-hard protein shake or smoothie-maker, this futuristic and efficient mixer will be a godsend. Amazon has some great deals, making the purchase a win-win.
Blue Light Blocking Glasses ($20)
Some Santas know too well that their family and friends are stuck in front of a computer all day, which is a big strain on the eyes. Gifting them with these blue light glasses shows care for their health and their comfort.
Invigorating Scalp Massager ($16)
There’s nothing that matches the feeling of a scalp massage. Spa treatments at home can feel just as amazing when stimulating massages like these, keep away dandruff and win the top prize in gift-giving.
Inflatable Rainbow Cloud Drink Holder ($16)
Quirky, funny, and fun, this drink holder from Amazon is perfect for the friends and family who are the life of the party! Even better if these people own a pool.
No-Spill Aerating Wine Glass ($50)
For any wine-lovers, this is a haven. Its innovation and connective, intuitive aeration is a masterpiece for the kitchen and lively dinner party.
Gifts Specific for the Foodies
Let’s face it, sometimes the perfect kind of presents are those that can be eaten. Check out the platters and sets that will make any food-lover happy:
W&P Virtual Happy Hour Cocktail Kit ($55)
A person who has everything can never have too many a cocktail. Be in with the times and gift them with a set of two Moscow Mules and Two Old Fashions — they’d definitely be in for a treat!
Williams Sonoma Classic Hot Chocolate ($20)
A company set on making home-life the best life it can be, Williams Sonoma has a classic hot chocolate mix that melts in milk organically. The chocolate isn’t powder but shavings and allows for an authentic hot cocoa feel.
Hand-Made Gourmet Turkish Delights ($7)
For anyone who remembers Edmund in The Chronicles of Narnia, he was a big fan of Turkish Delights. Whether or not the recipient is a fan of this series, Turkish delights such as the gift boxes on Amazon are a nice gift for the office, friends, or family who have a sweet tooth or two.
Cheese Bars Gift Assortment ($27)
The Wisconsin Cheeseman sells a prolific array of cheese bars that is perfect for a dairy-lover. Sample platters are a great way to keep a holiday authentic and pure. This assortment also works as Christmas gifts for coworkers.
Cookie Gift Box ($40)
Insomnia Cookies don’t just cover midnight cookie cravings but also span the Christmas cookie needs of any cookie-lovers. Send over this cookie assortment that will make a friend or loved one just as happy as if a Girl Scout came to their door.
Fun and Easy Cookbooks ($20-$50)
Whether it’s the Joy of Cooking or Mastering the Art of French Cooking (or any other classic cookbook), anyone who loves spending time hustling and bustling about the kitchen will be extra touched by a cookbook that finally inspires them to make all that they love.
Le Chateau Wine Decanter ($50)
This Amazon goodie is a fancy, luxe item for someone who is a wine connoisseur. If they enjoy elegance and prestige, this decanter can be just the thing to fill their glass quite literally.
Bamboo Travel Cutlery Set ($8)
For anyone who likes to fine-dine on the go, this bamboo cutlery set is for the chefs and foodies who also hate plastic waste. Useful and amusing to the friends and family who just know each other too well, this set (found on Amazon) is great for travel as well as pointing out that this person is a food-lover at heart.
Shower Beer Holder ($11)
There may be some beer lovers in the midst, and what better way to show some support for their passion by providing an easy way to drink no matter the location? Found at The Container Store, this gift belongs in the funny Secret Santa gifts folder, yet is extremely practical.
Shower Wine Holder ($15)
The beer lovers can meet their match with the wine lovers — but both deserve to drink their favorite drink no matter where they are in the home! These holders are for anyone who wants to relax and spend some time in the tub — self-care is essential, especially around a holiday like Christmas.
Avocado Preservation Box ($20)
If any friend or a family member has complained about their avocados or guacamole going brown, this just might be the gift for them. Useful and thoughtful to the point of amusement, this box will be the gift that keeps on giving for all the seasons to come.
White Elephant Gift Ideas
Another popular holiday game is White Elephant. This game is more competitive and surprising, as it allows people to steal gifts and choose new ones.
That is why White Elephant gift ideas need to be well thought out — so there is something worthy of stealing!
Essentially, the rules are as follows:
- Every participant buys a gift that can be useful to everyone in the room.
- Each person wraps their gift and brings it to the gathering.
- Numbers are drawn, and everyone goes to pick an item.
- Each person is allowed to open a new gift or “steal” the one that has already been opened.
- It’s up to the host to allow how many times one item can be stolen!
Blood will boil when some presents are better than others and get stolen before you know it!
But what is a White Elephant Gift Exchange without those little flavors of heat and edge?
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Good Last-Minute Gift?
There is no shame in last-minute gifts; sometimes, inspiration strikes right along with the tick of the fast-moving clock. If there is little time left but a present still to buy, check out these wonderful last-minute options:
- Fuzzy socks
- Wine and chocolates
- Thermoses and ground coffee
- Soap and self-care materials
- Perfume or cologne
- Face masks and foot masks
- Bath bombs
What to Buy for the Person Who Has Everything?
Sometimes, it seems the Secret Santa recipient has absolutely everything. So, what could a Santa possibly buy?
- Personalized photo books
- Tea sets
- Photo frames
- National parks pass
- Spa certificate
- Gift cards to different restaurants
- Insulated mugs and thermoses
- Essential oils
- Set of hand creams
What Are Unisex Gifts?
Unisex gifts strip away some of the constraints society has placed on certain items and do not speak to any gender. They are gifts that anyone — no matter their identity — can use and find joy in. They also make great Christmas gifts for coworkers.
Let’s take a look at some:
- Funky socks
- Board games/card games
- Farmer’s Market sauces and spices
- Engraved cutting boards
- Knit winter beanies
- Air pods (for Apple phone owners)
- Favorite movie posters
- Books from preferred genre
What Are Good Secret Santa Gifts?
At the end of the day, good Secret Santa gift ideas for friends are the ones that match their needs, personality, and taste — especially if they have a particular “flavor” of a gift they like. However, when in doubt, it’s best practice to ask oneself, “Would I like this gift?”
If the answer is yes, you’ve perfected Secret Santa!
And One More Thing
Friends and family should be the first to agree that the holidays truly aren’t only about the presents — the love, the thoughtfulness, and the memories made are just as important.
As much as all these little things can get added to someone’s wish-list, attaching a card with a heart-felt note or a small photo with a message on the back can go a long way to show someone they are cared for.
Finally, the holidays are about coming together and sharing experiences — so, in light of the season, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below about personal Christmas experiences or what presents personally stand out!