Office Party Choices – Secret Santa or White Elephant

Posted by PartyWeDo on Friday, October 5, 2012

It is no secret that Santa and the White Elephant are holiday partners

Secret Santa and white elephant gift exchangesWe are big fans of any style of gift exchange party or game. We mostly focus on the white elephant gift party, but we also love to give a nod to the Secret Santa swap, particularly for office parties.

If you have ever worked in an office then you may already be familiar with the Christmas tradition of Secret Santa.  This is a popular Western tradition that livens up the workplace and gets everyone talking at the Christmas party.

I have played Secret Santa many times over the year in my office and it always seems to cause a bit of a stir. We normally play the version which involves everyone picking a name from a hat.  You then buy a Secret Santa present for the person you have picked.  The secret part is that you are not supposed to tell anyone else whose name you have picked and so everyone is kept guessing when the presents are revealed.

Not so Secret Santa

The problem in my office is that most people are unable to resist telling everyone whose name they have picked from the hat.  Invariably by the time the presents are unwrapped at the Christmas party everyone knows who has bought them.  This does spoil the whole game a little and makes me wonder why we bother in the first place.

Secret Santa – What’s the Point?

The Secret Santa game was thought up to encourage gift exchanges between groups of people who are not intimately accounted.  This could be co-workers or members of a community organization.  I know just how hard it can be to think of gifts for people you don’t know well.  I have fallen into the trap of feeling pressured into spending more money than I can afford as I wanted to make sure I made a good impression.  It is also very stressful worrying about how your gift might be received by a co-worker.  The secret part of the Secret Santa game helps to overcome this and the point is that no-one is supposed to know who the gifts are from.

Playing the Game

I have always thought of this game as a bit of fun but it can be difficult buying for people in the office.  This is why it is a good idea to set some ground rules when the names are drawn.  We always set a $10 to $20 dollar budget for Secret Santa so that no one feels they have to spend a lot of money.  It is a good idea to set a lower budget if you have a diverse workplace with people earning different levels of income.

There are no strict rules about what gifts can be given and the saucy sense of humor means that amusing ‘adult’ style gifts are popular such as chocolate willies or naughty playing cards.  It might be worth mentioning this to everyone beforehand so that no one takes offense if they receive this type of gift.

It can be tricky thinking of new Secret Santa gifts each year so here are just a few of popular ideas to get you started:

  • Novelty edible knickers
  • Naughty biscuit cutters
  • Mugs or t-shirts with humorous slogans
  • Novelty pens or desk notepads
  • Luxury chocolate
  • Retro Sweets

White Elephant and Other Alternatives

This year we are going to try a slightly different version of Secret Santa to try and overcome the problem of everyone letting slip who they are buying for.    This alternative version is known as the ‘White Elephant Gift Exchange’.  Instead of drawing names all the gifts will be anonymous.  The gifts are wrapped in the same paper and then put in a box.  Everyone takes a turn to select a present from the box.  When it is your turn you can choose to open your gift or swap it for one that has already been opened.

This White Elephant Gift Exchange game seems to encourage a bit more participation and should be more fun for the Christmas party festivities.  This will also mean that no one will be able to give the game away about who they are buying for as the gifts will be selected randomly.


Secret Santa is a great fun game for the office Christmas party.  I recommend you use the Internet to do your gift shopping for this game as there are lots of great ideas and bargains online.


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