What could be more fun than giving gifts to your best friends, with an added element of mystery and intrigue? Well, if we’re talking about Secret Santa, there are moments when having a brace fitted, cleaning a toilet or doing maths homework for the whole class might beat the activity in the excitement stakes.
It’s stressful, it’s intense and it can cause enough friendship fury to lay out the whole of Taylor’s squad. Still, it’s also fabulously festive, and we love it as hard as we hate it. We wouldn’t be without it. Here’s the typical timeline of your standard Secret Santa draw…
Depending on how organised you are, you might decide to start Secret Santa proceedings the old fashioned way – by ripping a bit of notebook into pieces, carefully writing down everyone’s name (and someone will hold everything up by insisting that this can only be done with a cinnamon scented gel pen, and they’ve definitely got one in the bottom of their bag, actually why not wait until Monday because they’re going to buy one from WH Smith?) Alternatively, you’ll get an app, and half of you will fail to respond because the confirmation email will get stuck in your junk folder, and one of you will try to sign in through Facebook on someone else’s computer and accidentally join the draw as your Dad.
“So, who have you got for Secret Santa?” is a question that can be asked so innocently and casually that it’s perfectly normal to reply “I’ve got Jennifer, and I’m really annoyed because she’s a pain to buy for and doesn’t seem to like anything and…SECRET! It’s supposed to be a SECRET, how dare you trick me! Anyway, who have you got? Want to swap?”
In the run up to the big present presentation, everyone will buckle under the strain of their own giddy festive excitement, apart from one person who will irritatingly hold out, and say “la la la, I don’t care who has who, I’m not listening!” It’s probably Jennifer. She doesn’t seem to understand that absolutely everyone else has worked out who she is buying for using a very simple process of elimination. And because she was seen buying a personalised notebook and glittery name stickers.
You swear to a pocket money-friendly £10 limit, and spend hours working out exactly how to play the Boots three-for-two system in order to get maximum bang for your buck. Then one of the Santas lets slip that she’s gone “way over” because she found the perfect thing and couldn’t resist. Her Santee freaks out and has to do some emergency chores or dig deep into her piggy bank in order to make sure both gifts are equally extravagant. The day arrives, and it turns out the “perfect” gift is a 450 colour eyeshadow palette made up of different shades of sludgy brown.
You never draw the person you really want to buy for, which is a problem that can be dealt with in two ways. You simply put up with it, and acknowledge that’s all part of the risk of deciding to take part in a Secret Santa exchange in the first place. Or, you buy a special secret gift for your BFF, and you can’t resist spilling the beans about it because you’re hoping they’ll get you something too. Which brings you all straight back to the budget problem, as well as making the other people in the group feel rubbish because they don’t get a ‘special’ present.
You try to rectify this by buying several boxes of stripy candy canes and distributing them around the group. Someone gets one stuck to their coat, someone else requires an emergency dental appointment and no-one can face eating anything minty until the following May.
Getting everyone together to swap gifts is the most exciting part of Secret Santa, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be straightforward. Only you can’t do it on the last day of term, because half of the group are in junior windband and spending the afternoon playing O Holy Night at an old people’s home. You can’t do it the weekend before Christmas, because someone has to go to Scotland to see their Nan. You can’t do it at registration because you’ve all got to go to a special assembly in which the sixth formers will dress in tinsel and do impressions of the Physics teacher. You can’t do it early, because someone got their Mum to order something on Etsy, it’s coming from Canada and delivery takes 2-12 weeks. So you end up swapping gifts on the bus, in the middle of a traffic jam, still swaddled in scarves and gloves.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
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Image: Hailey Hamilton