Tackling Secret Santa Anxiety

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It’s that time of year again. You know, the time where Operation Secret Santa is in full effect and you’re a part of it by hook or by crook – at least, that’s how it can feel like at times right? This especially seems to be the case at work where you’re given a Secret Santa, and whilst it is never fully enforced, there is that unspoken expectation of you being a part of it. After all, you don’t want to look like the grinch when everyone else is passing around gifts. So, what do you do if Secret Santa really isn’t your cup of tea? Here are a few suggestions that may be useful.

1. If there is no set budget, be clear on the maximum that you’re willing to pay

Usually, there would be a maximum amount that people should be spending on their gifts for Secret Santa and this can range from £5 to £10 or even more. A maximum amount is set in order to make it more of a level playing field, but what happens if there is no amount mentioned? If possible, try to suggest to the person in charge to set an amount and hopefully they will consider it. If not, let them know that you are happy to participate but that you are only going to spend a specific amount on the gift. If they really are doing it in the spirit of giving, then they should not have an issue. If not, at least you know you tried.

2. Don’t participate

Christmas can be financially tight for some, thus making it difficult to participate in Secret Santa. Whilst the Secret Santa itself is anonymous, it becomes glaringly obvious if you have not participated when you do not receive a gift yourself. This can be especially awkward in a group environment. Finances may not be the only reason for not participating because, for some, it can be a matter of personal principles. Others may not be religious and see no need to get involved. Whatever the reason, do not feel obliged to have to provide one.  If people are being guilt-tripped into participating, then it really does defeat the purpose of it all. The trick is to be confident in your stance and remain firm with it. This can mean gently playing it off if someone asks why you received nothing. After all, there are only so many times that you can say that your secret Santa ‘forgot’ to get you a present.

3. Suggest a corporate ‘Santa’s Grotto’

This works better in a work environment as the aim would be to have the company hire Santa for the day and give everyone a gift. Do you remember how, as a child, your parents would pay an extortionate amount for you to go to Santa’s grotto, take a photo and get a gift? A gift that he most likely gives to every other child? Yeah, it’s something like that. It may not be the most amazing gift but it’s the thought that counts, right? Most importantly, it gets rid of the pressures associated with Secret Santa and everyone can actually participate if they choose to. You’d be surprised at how much money businesses do have to support ideas like this, but you don’t know if you don’t ask. Well then, what about if it’s a Secret Santa in an out-of-work setting? My next suggestion will cover this.

4. Do a potluck

Christmas is not just about the presents, it’s also about the food too so why not suggest a potluck? It can take different forms, for example, it could entail asking people to pitch in with buying the ingredients and then have a designated cook to prepare dishes from it. The list can remain anonymous but if you are worried about people buying the same thing, you can still have it anonymous but leave the list open and then prepare whatever you can with what you have. This way, even if too many of one item is bought, it can be used to prepare something else but at least everyone has contributed with what they can afford. Also, who says dishes have to be prepared? It can be a big old snack fest where everyone brings whatever snack that they can afford because at the end of the day it is the memories that matter, the people you share it with and the fellowship that is had.

Opeyemi Adeyemo