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Secret Santa

By Jane Clamp | 19 December 2018 | Comments (6)

It’s that time again, the office party or works’ dinner out looms, and someone has come up with the bright scheme of having a Secret Santa. The idea (in case you are unfamiliar) is that each person in the organisation buys a gift for one other person, whose name is drawn randomly from a top hat, if done properly, but an old Jiffy bag if not. The end result is that everyone receives a present at the event, with no one left out.


In order that cashmere sweaters don’t compete unfairly with a Mars bar selection box, a budget is usually set – no more than a fiver if you’re working with the right people. The packages are then opened with everyone else looking on. If you get a half-decent present, you have no clue which of these people to thank: frustrating if you are the sort who likes to write a proper letter. Conversely, if you receive an absolute travesty of a gift, you don’t know who to blame. The careless donor is spared their blushes by the veil of anonymity.


Yet underneath the superficial aspects of this ‘game’ are some deeper points that are worth exploring.


When we give a present, we like to declare our identity on the gift tag. We want to be associated with the item. We want our thoughtfulness to be appreciated. We need the little boost of endorphins that comes from Doing A Lovely Thing. Dare I say, we want our generosity to be not only noticed, but applauded? Giving a present under the radar, as a Secret Santa, challenges our motivations and raises emotions and reactions we might otherwise ignore. Maybe we find ourselves not wanting to give anything to Sharon in Reception who always gives us a hard time when we jam the photocopier, again. Is there some resentment rumbling under the surface when we are ‘told’ to buy a present for someone we don’t even like?


And what of the £5 limit? I wonder which side of us that taps into. Is our response the following? ‘Hurrah! That’s nothing! I barely need bother. I’ll just pick up any old thing and it’ll do. In fact, I can get 5 any old things at Poundland.’ In other words, does a low budget reduce the amount of heart we put into giving?


Or do you respond as I do, relishing the challenge of seeing how far my £5 will stretch? Years of financial restriction have made me an expert in the ‘let’s make out this cost far more than it did’ game. My retail outlet of choice has to be TKMaxx (others are available…) since their price labels always state the RRP before announcing their rock-bottom reduction. If I can get something for a fiver that should have been north of a tenner, I consider myself to have won, but I also genuinely hope that the recipient will be blessed by something that’s worth more.


Of course, the Bible thought of Secret Santa first! ‘But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret,’ (Matt 6:3-4 NIV). Because here’s the real challenge: we give to bless, not to be noticed. So, whether it’s from a luxury budget or a modest one, let’s give generously from the heart this Christmas. And remember, as the Matthew passage goes on to say, our Father – who really sees what’s done in secret – will reward us. Everyone benefits. How good God’s schemes are!


Upside Down Giving

Enjoy your Gift

Tis the Season to be spoiled?


Simon Measures

December 19, 2018 4:50 PM
Unfortunately, in practice, Secret Santa doesn't work this way. Normally it is run by a small group of colleagues, friends or relatives to simplify present buying. The fundamentals of it really don't act out Matt.6:3-4.

Jenny Scott-Thompson

December 19, 2018 5:11 PM
Great article, thank you! Thought-provoking to consider if we're pleased by the recipient's happiness or by their gratitude to us as giver.

Alison Wale

December 20, 2018 10:47 AM
It's also really difficult to be charitable/generous in thought when you spent lots of time thinking about our present, and stretching your fiver as far as it will go, when whoever bought for you just went to Poundland & got some tat.

bob and donna Johnson

December 20, 2018 12:28 PM
A great reminder, Jane, that it is not only 'more blessed to give than to receive,' but it is a double blessing when the only other One who knows what you did is the One Whose birth we celebrate and Who gave us the ultimate 'gift' of Himself. Thanks for the reminder.


December 21, 2018 9:27 AM
Giving without acknowledgment is indeed a challenge but does encourage humility. We've been thinking of instigating a Secret Santa idea in our family but haven't quite mastered the logistics of keeping things 'secret' when we are geographically far-flung, so dipping into a bag of names is not practicable. Any ideas welcome!

Jeffrey r hodge

December 21, 2018 10:51 PM
Our father in heaven sees and knows our hearts ,recently a programme on the radio asked people to phone and tell and the audience their last good deed or whatever.My point is that we are led in compassion by the Holy Spirit to do good deeds in secret ; we answer to no one but him .

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