Depending on where you are from, you have probably, at some time, participated in the holiday gift-giving tradition of “Secret Santa”, “Kris Kringle”, or “Pollyanna”, either at work or with a group of friends. It’s that system of randomly (and secretly) selecting the name of a person in the group for whom to give a gift. When done correctly, no member in the group knows another’s Secret Santa or gift recipient, save for the recipient he/she selected. In other words, you know who you are giving a gift to, but otherwise you are in the dark until it’s time to exchange gifts.
And that’s the fun of it. Until the day comes to exchange presents, you can wonder about who has your name, try to fool others into thinking you do or don’t have their name, and attempt to get others to divulge who they have (because so few of us are able to keep a secret for too long!). Like a whodunnit, Secret Santa adds an element of surprise and mystery to the holiday gift-giving experience.
And it’s economical too. Let’s face it: times are tough, what with unemployment steadily on the rise and most of us identifying ourselves as “The 99%”. Shopping for one person from the group is a heck of a lot easier on the wallet than shopping for the entire group. And because it’s a random (and secret!) system, there’s no worry about leaving someone out or showing favoritism. And when the group sets a spending limit that is reasonable to everyone, Secret Santa really is a practical and affordable way to exchange gifts.
Of course, my family takes it to the next level. It’s called Socialist Santa. I know, it sounds like something that originated from Karl Marx or came from the U.S.S.R., but the idea is brilliant. Here’s how it works: everything’s the same as with Secret Santa except there’s a little twist. Every family member secretly contributes the amount of money he/she feels comfortable spending. My husband, the only member who has knowledge of the dollar amounts, collects the money and then evenly redistributes it, giving each family member the same amount to spend. The result is that those who are on the financial low end (like the college student or single mom) have the same shopping power as the members who, currently, are financially on top. There is no pressure to contribute a certain amount; it is all voluntary and at each member’s discretion. Give what you are able and willing to give. No questions asked.
Personally, I encourage family members to stay within their means, because the spirit of giving is far more valuable than any gift, and no one should be starting off the New Year in debt. But so far, each year that we have participated in the Socialist Santa gift exchange, the dollar amount that I receive to spend astounds me. My husband is very good at keeping secrets (unlike the rest of us!) so he has never revealed to me the amounts each member puts in, but I know that someone or other is very generous. And that’s fine. Doing it this way allows individuals to spend in the way they feel comfortable, without putting a burden on anyone’s wallet or quashing anyone’s desire to express his/her generosity. And everyone benefits from the results.
In the meantime, my husband and I, and our blended family of adult children, will communicate any Christmas wishes to our Socialist Santas via email, and my mom (who is not participating in this group) will select the names for us, matching thoughtful Santas with eager recipients. As I write this, I’m already wondering who I will get and who will have me. Hmmm…
So to all you Santas in secret and merry Kris Kringles, and especially you Socialist Santas, enjoy some warm, freshly baked cookies and a cold glass of milk After all, ’tis the season to be jolly!
That is a very good idea.
Thanks! I wish I could take the credit, but it was my husband’s daughter, Emily, who thought of the idea and my husband who came up with the name. I like that we keep a spending limit, and that we can feel comfortable about what we wish/can afford to contribute. Before we did it this way, holiday shopping was stressful for some of us, and my guess is that at least some of our young adult family members were probably using credit cards to pay for gifts that were out of their budget. That always worries me. And then Christmas morning could be stressful, too, with the contrasts in the quantity of presents, etc. that made some people feel bad or self-conscious. This idea keeps it “cash only” and levels the playing field in a sense. To be honest, I don’t really need all the gift giving – the holidays are so commercialized – but if we’re going to give gifts, at least we can do it in a way that honors and supports everyone’s needs.