8 Unique Ideas on What to Do Instead of Secret Santa

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Let’s be honest here, organizing secret Santa every year can be quite stressful. It’s not just about the game but about repeating the same thing over and over again. It can become rather boring, right? Besides, a lot of people don’t like pulling out names randomly, especially when they have to buy a gift for strangers. In the familiar and family environments, things could be different, but still, a lot of people simply don’t enjoy secret Santa. However, what would you say if somebody presented you with a list of other fun gift-exchange ideas other than secret Santa? Yes, they do exist, and you won’t even believe how fun they are.

Don’t get all that skeptical, we do have some great ideas in mind. There are quite some ways to organize different activities for large groups of people without opting for secret Santa. If you only take a quick look at our list, you’ll see it too. Our ideas on what to do instead secret Santa will allow you to spend some quality time with your friends and family for the holiday season. Give it a go! You won’t be disappointed.

Infographic 8 Unique Ideas on What to Do Instead of Secret Santa

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White Elephant

We have great news for those who are looking for different ways to do secret Santa. The White Elephant game is very similar to the secret Santa yet most people find it more enjoyable. Participants get to set a price limit that all feel comfortable with, so everyone gets a gift within the set range. For more fun, players can agree on giving used or old stuff found around the house. Whoever pulls out the number 1 from a hat gets to open the first present. The second player can open the new one or steal the one that’s already open. The same thing repeats over and over again until all people get a gift. The one that opens the gift last has the best chance to get a perfect thing because he or she can steal a gift from all other players. From all secret Santa reveal games, we most certainly like this one the most.

Grab Bag

Grab Bag is one of the most popular gift games that’s been playing widely across the world. It’s rather simple yet very fun to play. All participants bring deceptively wrapped gifts. The goal is to transform the overall shape of the gift so that nobody can guess what’s underneath the paper or inside the box. Participants get to choose a gift only based on the (deceptive) appearance. Discovering gifts hidden from the view is what makes this game incredibly fun to play. It’s like a secret Santa with a twist!

Pass the Gift

We have one of the most popular secret Santa variations for you. It’s perfect for those who are organizing a party or game night with their closest friends. You all need to sit in the circle and pick a random gift at the time. Then each one of you has to pass it to the person sitting next to you. Set up the timer or play the music, so once it stops or the alarm goes off, the person who is holding a gift at the time gets to keep it. Fun, right? It brings memories of childhood and hot potato game. 

Scavenger Hunt

You have probably heard about the scavenger hunt already, but we can’t miss to mention it. It’s our personal favorite, as it makes searching for gifts more exciting and adventurous. We also recommend it for the office! You or one of your colleagues gets to hide the gifts in the office and set up some hints about their locations. The rules are simple, the one you find it’s yours! Also, whoever finds a gifts gets out of the game so that everybody can end up with a gift.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t give too obvious hints about gifts. The game should be well organized so that participants put quite some time and effort in the searching process. Those who need some extra tips for the game can follow our recommendations on How to Give Hints About a Gift.

Gift Auction

Are you wondering what funny tasks for secret Santa game in the office can you split among your coworkers? Well, we can tell you that you’ll need an auctioneer for the next game! We are thinking about a classic auction but only with gifts. All participants bring gifts and put them on the table. One item is pulled out at a time, only wrapped so nobody can know what’s under the paper. Then players get to bid for a particular gift until everyone has one in their hands. It’s a perfect game for Christmas at the office!

Pro Tip: We are aware that most people have difficulties with choosing gifts for coworkers and people they don’t know well. For more tips on what to buy for your coworkers, you can look at our article about Personalized Gifts for Large Groups.

The Game With Numbers

If you’re throwing a party for friends and family, we have a perfect idea in mind as an alternative to the secret Santa game. When a guest comes with a gift, put a number on it, and give the owner a card with the same number. Later on, all the guests get to write some interesting facts about them on the paper. They throw their papers in the hat, and then the host pulls out one by one and reads out loud the facts. Participants should guess who the fact is about. The first one that does gets to keep the gift with the same number!

Voting Game

We have another idea for those planning secret Santa variations in offices and big companies. You can organize voting for gifts. For instance, every participant gets to write 3 things he or she wants for Christmas. Every other participant gets to vote for one of those things, depending on what he or she thinks that the coworker would love the most. Playing the game is a great way to include all people from the office in Christmas activities, yet it’s less stressful than traditional secret Santa game.

Gift Theme

To make the secret Santa game less intense and stressful, we recommend choosing a particular theme for the event. Talk to your other colleagues, friends, or family members. You can even vote on the best ideas. The main goal is to pick a theme according to the group’s desires. For example, you can agree on tech gadgets, food exchange, travel gear, and much more. This way, people will be more comfortable with buying gifts from a beforehand set category. They’ll also feel less pressure about making a mistake when buying gifts for strangers. Take a look at our picks for 5 Cheap Christmas Presents That Look Expensive For People on a Budget. They could inspire you about a certain theme for the upcoming Christmas event in the office.

More Ideas for Skipping Secret Santa Altogether

If you’re not thrilled with the secret Santa event or any of the variations listed above, you should just skip it altogether. We have several completely different options for you, so check them out and forget about the stressful random games.

Saving Money for Big Gifts

If you’re celebrating Christmas with friends and family, you have an opportunity to do something practical. Instead of exchanging gifts this year, you can all save some money to get a big one for everyone. It can be anything! You can go on a trip together, travel in distant countries for Christmas, or even get some useful stuff for the house or other places you usually hang out. Introduce this idea to your friends and family. They’ll love it. 

Charitable Causes

Have you and your friends considered the option to save all that money meant for Christmas gifts and spend it on those who need it the most? You can skip not only secret Santa, but giving gifts altogether, and spend the money on charitable causes. This way, you’ll make someone’s Christmas memorable.

DIY Crafts

Instead of spending money on gifts, you and your friends can organize a DIY gathering. What should that be, you may ask? You can all sit in the room and work on the practical things you can later on use or exchange as gifts. For example, you can create toys for children, decorations for the day, baskets of food to be served during the night, and so on. It will allow you and your family and friends to spend time together and have fun while working on the gifts, while it’ll also save you quite some money. Not to mention how it will save you from stressful gift-choosing situations!

Final Thoughts

We composed this list to help you find alternative activities for the secret Santa game. We are well aware that not all people love to play this game. Even those who do might get bored with repeating it so many times over the years, as the game is widely and frequently performed in friend and family circles, companies, and other places.

With all these ideas on the list, you’re all set to pick a perfect game for celebrating Christmas with your coworkers, friends, and family.  However, if you want to be completely sure you’re making the right decision, here are some extra things you should consider when choosing a particular game:

How old are the participants?

You should first consider the age of all people participating in the game. If you’re celebrating Christmas with your family and there will be children present, you should avoid games they won’t be able to understand. Pick simple and fun ones that you can all enjoy together.

Extra tip: If you’re wondering what to give to the youngest ones in your family, we composed this guide about Santa Gift Ideas For a 10 Year Old. If should help you out with some practical gifts as well as inspire you about which one you can get for children in general. 

Are all participants up for a game?

Make sure to ask all participants whether they are up for a game or not. Don’t forget to explain a particular game in detail. They should know what they are assigning for and then make a decision. Also, make sure that the majority agrees on the chosen game and that at least all participants are okay with it (if not completely thrilled).

Is there someone who is not comfortable with the game?

Look for the signs that will tell you whether all participants are comfortable with all aspects of the game. Don’t forget that not everyone can afford playing Christmas games with expensive gifts. You should aim to please all group members, whether they are only your coworkers you see on the hallways or your closest friends. They should all feel perfectly comfortable with the game, especially if you’re all planning to give some money for gifts.

Lastly, don’t forget to be creative and have fun! As long as you’re thinking about pleasing all group members and organizing an enjoyable Christmas game, everything will be just fine. You should also keep in mind that it’s equally okay to love and to hate the secret Santa game. Some people are tired of it, while others never loved it at all. You should do whatever makes you happy and comfortable! In the end, we hope our list of 8 unique ideas on what to do instead of secret Santa helped you find the perfect activity for the upcoming holiday.





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