There’s no going back. The Halloween merchandise has been removed from the shelves, Guy Fawkes Day is imminent and the dreaded C-word is looming. Soon, every shop will be decked in Christmas crap and radio stations will start slipping Baby It’s Cold Outside into their playlists. Before November is out, some kindly sort in the office will say, “let’s do a Secret Santa!”

Office Secret Santas are fraught with disappointment and potential embarrassment. For starters, there’s no such this as a secret in most workplaces. You knew about Sandra in accounting’s affair before her husband did, and he works on the desk next to her. The notion that a bunch of people are going to keep the intended recipients of gifts to themselves is, at best, wishful thinking. Once someone knows they’re on the receiving end of your largesse, the pressure is on to pick a really great present. And that’s where the next issue comes along.

The chances of you getting stuck buying a gift for someone you don’t know, or even like, all that much are high. The only thing worse than having to buy a prezzie for someone you hardly know, is having to do so when the person knows you’re the one giving it. Suddenly, your complete lack of interest in this person is highlighted and scrutinised by everyone else in the office. It sucks, you’d never buy a gift for this person given the choice, and now you have to get something that they’re going to love, for under a tenner. The pressure!

Office Secret Santa
How embarrassing, we appear to have brought the same gift.

That is, of course, assuming that everyone sticks to the budget. There’s always one person who hightails it to Poundland and pretends they spent the full tenner on five items. If you’re the recipient of Scrooge’s gift, you’re going to feel cheated and resentful that you didn’t even recoup your own costs in this whole palaver. While on the issue of budget, though, let’s settle once and for all the eternal question. No, the cost of wrapping in not included in the budget. Practically everyone has wrapping paper kicking about the house at this time of year. Don’t be THAT person.

Ok, you’ve probably labelled me as a bit of a Grinch by now. I’m not, I love Christmas and look forward to shopping for Christmas presents. The whole Secret Santa thing can actually be a lot of fun, with a few guidelines.

Have a theme

Instead of a freeform nightmare, enforce some rules on this sucker. Suggest that all the gifts must be edible, funny or wearable. Everyone in the office drinks tea or coffee, right? Why not challenge each other to buy a brilliant mug for their giftee? 

Keep costs low

There’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve got your Christmas budget nailed, then some asshat in the office sets a £25 limit to the Secret Santa. The bigger the budget, the more pressure there is to buy a really fitting gift for your intended recipient. Pick a ridiculously precise amount, say £4.87, and try to find great wee items to fit the budget, it’s more fun!

Get help

Elfster.com is a great way to organise your Secret Santa. You can add a wishlist to your profile so your Santa will have a few clues about what to get you. There are other tools you can use to draw the names and make sure there are no shenanigans. You don’t want to take part in a rigged gift exchange, Secret Santa Elf will make sure the draw is fair.

Be non-specific

Don’t pick names. Instead, have everyone bring a generic gift and have a lucky dip. You’ll probably end up with a toiletries gift set, but that was always a likelihood anyway.

The main thing is, relax and enjoy yourself! You’ll probably exchange your presents at the office party so you’ll be too pissed to care in the end. More on that next time…

What’s the worst Secret Santa gift you’ve ever received (or given!)? Go on, ‘fess up!

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