Secret Santa is a great way to surprise your friends and family with gifts.

If you’re looking for a new holiday tradition to enjoy with your friends or family, look no further; Secret Santa gift exchanges are the perfect choice for all crowds.

Secret Santa is a Christmas tradition that involves a gift exchange within a group of people. Each group member is randomly assigned another member to find a present for. The identity of the gift-giver is supposed to remain a secret. This Christmas gift-giving game involves no stealing of gifts like the similarly popular “White Elephant” or “Yankee Swap.”

“While I have no fun memories of Secret Santa traditions yet, I have many, many evil plans to drag a couple people I know into one eventually,” Gabriella Byrne (junior, English writing studies) said.

A Secret Santa can be a free for all, but they often come with a limit on the amount of money each giver is allowed to spend to make sure the gifting is “fair” to all participating. The small limitation can make it far more enjoyable for everyone involved, and it ensures that any potential awkwardness when it comes to available finances is eliminated.

“The great thing about Secret Santa gifts is that the gift does not have to be personal or expensive or over the top in any way,” Byrne said. “Part of the fun is the part that it is secret. So, a general gift any person could give another is the way to go.”

She recommends getting a funny card and a little keychain/charm/small item the person can carry anywhere that goes along with that tidbit of information you know about that person and create a gift centered around it.

“Add a joke in the card with a little bit of personal knowledge you have on that person to give a hint on who gifted it,” she said.

If you don’t know your assigned person, well, one of the best ideas for a gift can involve a certain trend or even using your attention to detail to make some safe assumptions about that person. If they always seem to be wearing a different shade of lipstick, maybe make a guess about a new color or brand they might enjoy. Maybe they always seem to be getting stuck in the rain without an umbrella, and you’d like to make sure they get to stay warm and dry when the clouds appear from now on. Making careful assumptions involving their general age bracket can also be a safe bet to find the perfect Secret Santa gift.

“An idea that comes to mind that I know I would enjoy are sticker packs,” Sean Young (senior, marketing) said. “They are perfect for creative people to decorate and sticker bomb whatever they like. As a plus, if you know what the person or group is into, then you can be more specific in the subject matter of the stickers like superheroes, sports, brands, etc.”

The point of this particular tradition is not to give the best gift out of everyone in the group so there is no friendly, or unfriendly, competition. Also, since it involves no gift “stealing,” it invites the perfect opportunity to get to know the people around you better. This is a great way to enjoy each other’s company in an exciting and surprising, yet comfortably safe social environment. It would be perfect for a holiday office party and could succeed in just about any friend group.

“I have never participated in a Secret Santa myself, but boy, would I love to,” Byrne said. “I look forward to being the person that suggests it to my future coworkers in order to get to know each other better.”

Secret Santa is usually designed to be a “safe” way to find gifts for new friends or distant family members, yet some decide to go all out and make memories that their gift-giving party members are unlikely to forget.

“I once saw my friend gift his Secret Santa a wedding ring and proposed (she said yes),” Young said. “It was beautiful and touching, but it was really hard to follow that with a sampler pack of incense.”

The entire reason for the tradition, however, is spreading Christmas cheer and goodwill among friends and family and possibly fostering a few budding friendships in the process.

“I enjoy the end result of exchanging gifts and having fun holiday cheer together,” Young said. “However, finding good gifts that are personal and satisfying is dreadful for me.

While the idea of choosing a gift for someone you might not know inside and out may seem daunting at first, paying attention to your instincts about the person can help you find your way.

Keeping an open mind, remembering that it’s not a competition and having a good sense of humor is definitely the way to succeed with this entertaining and kind-hearted holiday tradition among coworkers, friends or family members this Christmas.

Happy holidays, Hawks.

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