How To Pull Off a Successful Secret Santa Gift Exchange With Your Family

Photograph courtesy of Yuganov Konstantin/

We all know what Secret Santa gift exchanges entail thanks to office parties. They’re easy, economical, and low-key. Plus, they make for a built-in group activity on the Big Day. This holiday season, try out this corporate mainstay on your family and friends. You just might love it. Here’s how:

  1. Find your way in: If your family is super close and loves picking out personalized gifts, then go for the classic Secret Santa. It allows one person to focus on only one other person, and it can be fun to see what kinds of gifts your loved ones choose for each other. Have family members open gifts one at a time to make an event of it. If your family is the Major Holidays Only type of crew, then you may want to do something like a Yankee Swap or White Elephant gift exchange, which will allow them to buy with the group in mind instead of an individual.
  2. Set a budget: This should be obvious, but some family members might scoff. A budget—even a range—helps people figure out where to start. It also fulfills one of the main objectives of Secret Santa and all other gift exchanges, which is to minimize cost and maximize fun.
  3. Pick a theme: Especially if this is your first experience with family gift exchanges, this can be a key feature. Our favorite theme? Consumables only. Stick with things that people can eat or drink—bonus points if it’s locally produced (or just bought at a local shop). From wine and coffee to all the treats at Findlay Market (our favorite edible gifts come from Dean’s Mediterranean). Your only problem will be getting your presents wrapped before someone eats them up.
  4. Consider leaving out the kids: Depending on their ages, they may not be so keen on the one-present-only rule (and the last thing anyone wants are tears on Christmas morning). Let grownups buy for the little kids and stick to Secret Santa for everyone else. Or not! Older kids might relish being let in on the fun.

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