The secret to being a good Santa this Christmas

Christmas gifts
Photo by: George Dolgikh

Secret Santa is not much of a secret in 2022 - it's everywhere! But where did this little tradition start?

It really does seem like a game created in a corner office somewhere as a way to make gift giving less arduous. But the internet will tell you that the idea started with an American man named Larry Dean Stewart who secretly donated $100 notes to random people. He did this as an act of goodwill for 25 years through the eighties and into the 2000s before revealing his secret. 

After people heard about all that generosity, Secret Santa gained snow tyre-like traction. Beside the niceness of it, there's an obvious simplicity involved: it's a way to get Christmas presents in perhaps a smaller, more cost effective way, that also removes the obligation of buying piles of stuff. 

If you’ve been hiding inside a large stocking each year and missed this trend, here’s the lowdown: Secret Santa or Kris Kringle as it's also known asks participants, be they family, friends or co-workers, to buy just one gift for one person within the group – secretly. Everyone gets one, everyone’s happy. 

So while it reduces the pressure that many feel to shop come Christmas, it’s also become more appealing as higher living costs hit.

We play this game in our house and enjoy it, but it has had me wondering if something is lost in not giving to more than one person? I might be in the minority but I kind of liked thinking about gift ideas for different members of my family. So, I’ve been wondering, are there other ways to share the festive vibe without watering the tradition down to economics? 

I suppose you could either buy very cheap gifts, or just make them. (Easier said than done, right!) Many of us probably want to make small purchases, or at least buy the materials to create something simple, but that's where the inquiry stops because, well, what exactly constitutes a decent homemade gift? I have no idea.

So to help figure this out, I took on some heavy duty Googling for you (you can thank me later with a hand-drawn card). This short list might just give you the start you need to go from Secret Santa, to a very Obvious Elf, if that's something, like me, you were hoping to achieve. 

1. Ornaments and decorations:
You can buy pretty inexpensive ornaments for under $10, and as tiny as they may be, they can be really pleasing to the eye. You can also make ornaments pretty easily, be it out of Fimo clay, paddle pop sticks, cardboard or even pine cones. Sure, you'll need some ribbon, or paint, maybe some glue, but this type of thing is available at the $2 shop if it's not already in the top draw of your desk. 

2. Homemade jam or chutney:
Some fruit, sugar, spice and all things nice. All you need is a pan, heat and a few ingredients. Oh, and a bit of time to cook it down, then pour into a nice looking jar. A ribbon might be nice, too.

3. A music playlist:
Back in the day a mix tape meant a lot, and while today's digital playlists aren't as tangible, they can still be fun. Why not pull some meaningful tracks together to share with a loved one. It’s a nice thought, and that can be all you need for "the most wonderful time of the year." 

4. Candles:
Yes, there can be some pricey ones, but basic low cost fragrant candles are easy to find at supermarkets and dollar stores, too. You can spruce them up a little as well by adding a handmade card. This one is literally five minutes of work and can look very appealing. 

If you need a bit more help with your Christmas shopping, we have plenty of helpful guides, like this one about the top video games for kids. Still feeling indecisive? Why not try the Boxing Day sales which we've also curated for you!