The Struggle Of Secret Santas

Oh, the game of Secret Santa (a.k.a., Holy Christmas Tree Cakes, what did I get myself into?!)

Ah, Christmas. Breathe deep, waft in the scent of cookies baking and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and try not to choke on pine needles. Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again.

Time for workplace Secret Santas!

I love presents and I love surprises and I love my coworkers (most of them), but Secret Santas in the workplace is one of the most stressful events of the holiday season for me.

First of all, I work a night shift with two coworkers. As much as we try and meet the day-walkers, I know that there are at least five people on the email list right now who I wouldn’t know if they came up behind me and hit me with a shoe. So, waiting around until we can pick little pieces of torn up, lined yellow paper from a sombrero in the boss’ office is extremely nerve-wracking. Oh god, what if I get someone I don’t know? Eep!

When that happens, you have a couple of options, including spying on people over walls, raiding their cubicles for clues to their personality and eavesdropping on their conversations at the watercooler (may come with the added bonus of constantly running to the bathroom because you do have to drink water to blend in.) Or, you could do what I did last year, which is email his sort of secret-girlfriend-coworker who I found out about from another co-worker with an awkward message that reads something like;

“Dear Hannah,
Hi, I know I’m not supposed to know this but I heard you’re dating such and such. I have him for Secret Santa, please help,


If these options don’t appeal to you, there is the ever popular “using technology to spy on them,” which includes raiding their Facebook page, or, if you’re my friend, printing out their dating profile to give to their Secret Santa. Yes, that is a true story, and yes, it did come in handy.

Oh thank god! I picked someone I know! Actually, I picked someone I know really well that I’m quite good friends with.


Is it possible to know someone too well? Most co-workers I know moderately well, I know superficial stuff about them like the fact that their favorite band is The Doors, their favorite author is Vonnegut or the fact that they’ve seen every episode of “Family Guy” at least five times and can quote the entire series back if they want to. In other words, that’s the perfect amount to know about someone, enough so that you have a decent idea of what to get them but not enough that you’re overwhelmed.

“Perfect!” you think. “I’ll just get them this little souvenir Doors mug and a travel book of Vonnegut for road trips.

On the other hand, you might know this person’s top five favorite TV shows, their favorite sports, career aspirations, music preferences, hobbies, and favorite book series, which you would think makes it 10 times easier to buy a gift for someone. You can just choose anything that they like and it’ll be fine!

Wait. We’re going to find out who our Secret Santas are; they don’t just stay hidden permanently, locked in some faraway closet of time and forbidden knowledge. Which means that this person will know I’m their Secret Santa.

Which means they’ll expect more than just the “Arrested Development” soundtrack and something golf-related. They’ll actually expect something meaningful.

Or, at the very least, not totally and completely crappy. And I’ll be honest, I suck at buying presents anyway. Figuring out what to write in cards for anyone for any holiday? Forget it! It took me two whole months to figure out a good present for my close friends’ wedding and I only have two weeks for Secret Santa. I’m screwed!

After the initial fit of giggles and hyperness over, “Yes! I got one of my friends! This is perfect!” wore off, I found myself lying on an office couch, staring at the ceiling, running through a list of possible presents in my head.

Something fun! A companion to a movie or TV show, some sort of merchandise. That might work. Argh! I have five shows to pick from that I don’t watch myself so I know nothing about the intricacies of the fandoms! And then there’s at least 20 movies I can think of off the top of my head, there’s no way I can figure out which one is best.

Okay, um, career aspirations in the entertainment industry! Shoot. Everything I can find on eBay or Etsy is unbearably cheesy and not a good fit at all—like a little mini-clapboard keychain. Seriously, gag me on cheese and cutesy-wootsyness. I wish I could give a job, just give someone a job for Christmas. That would be great.

Hmm, what about current career? Something he can use on the job? Erk. The problem is, he already has everything he can use on the job (obviously), and I can think of nothing original that doesn’t cost several hundred dollars to be useful (we have a $20 limit).

Sod it all. I can’t even ask for help because it’s ridiculously embarrassing asking, “Hey, I know I’m great friends with this guy and know him better than 98 percent of the people in this company do, but I need your help picking out a Secret Santa present(s).” Because that doesn’t make me sound like a clod. Nope, nu-uh, not at all.

Maybe if I talk about it with an outside influence it will help. My mom! She’s the only person I can be bothered to talk to when I get home in the morning, maybe she’ll have an idea.

This brilliant brainwave of mine was then followed by my spending 20 minutes trying to explain to my mother that, in the 21st century, buying someone a deerstalker cap simply isn’t done, never mind as a Christmas present or anything else for that matter. So scratch the idea of an outside influence for help.

A list! I love lists. Lists are fun. Lists are useful. Maybe I’ll sit down and make a list of everything I know he likes/is interested in. That could work. Until five minutes into writing the list I realize I sound like a mega-stalker. Because who writes lists for Secret Santas anyway? Crumple that up and toss it in the trash.

Back at square one, yet again. Maybe something that’s an inside joke? Except all the inside jokes are usually when he’s teasing me. Aw, frick. At this rate I’m never going to find a present. Ever. I’ll have to pack up and move to Zimbabwe in shame and my legacy will be of, “That Grl Who Failed So Badly At Secret Santa She Moved To Zimbabwe.”

There’s always the generically thoughtless gift card, I suppose, but that seems so tacky. And I would probably get teased about it, so scratch that off the list.

At this rate, I’d think I’d be less stressed if I just fled the country. One way ticket to Zimbabwe, please!

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What are your experiences with workplace Secret Santa? Tweet us @litdarling!

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