The Top 5 Secret Santa Variations

Secret Santa variations make gift exchanges appropriate for any occasion.

I talk about the holidays a lot. It’s a magical time of year, as we all know. It’s not about the gifts (really!) and it’s not even about the parties per se. The holidays are about people bringing light and happiness to the darkest days and longest nights of the year. 

And then? December turns in January, which slogs on into February, and the joy of the season slips behind you. But it doesn’t have to. You can bring that spirit with you year-round. Because there are a lot of ways to celebrate with gift-giving for any holiday. Secret Santa variations can be played year-round, whether they’re for traditional gift-giving occasions or whether you’re putting a new spin on a ceremony. 

Why Secret Santa Variations are Great All Year 

Okay, we’ll get something out of the way. You don’t have to call something a Secret Santa if you’re, say, exchanging patriotic gifts on the 4th of July. I suppose you could call it a Secret Sam or something. Or you could just say, “Hey, we’re going to do a fun gift exchange!” 

And then you’ll tell them the rules, and they’ll say, “Oh, like a Secret Santa!” You can handle it however you’d like. Really, it doesn’t matter what you call it. What matters is that everyone is excited to play. 

The great thing about these Secret Santa variations is that you get a chance to surprise someone and be surprised by other people. You get to find out what’s important to each other. And you get to laugh as people try to figure out who their Secret Santa is, faces straining to not give anything away. 

5 Great Secret Santa Variations

Here a few pretty dang good Secret Santa variations:

Mother’s/Father’s Day

This is a fun one for families with older kids who can buy their own gifts for their parents. If you have at least three kids (and these numbers can grow with spouses and grandkids), you have a fun way of showering parents with gifts—while also putting them on the spot. You can structure it essentially like a classic Secret Santa gift exchange except the gifts are all going to mom or dad, then the fun is trying to guess who gave what. Did Chip know I wanted these commemorative plates? Or is that more of a Lucinda thing? You’ll have a blast, and given that mom or dad makes their own wish list, they’ll actually get things they want. 

Wedding Shower

Here’s another time when gifts are expected—but the unexpected is not. The happy couple can create a wish list online and then everyone selects gifts for them. You can twist things up by having the newlyweds-to-be guess who got them the fondue set, or the weighted blanket, or the gift certificate to a restaurant at their honeymoon location. You probably don’t want to do this for parties that are too big (or limit them to two guesses for each gift). But it’s also a great way for one betrothed to see how much they know about the other betrothed’s family. 


This isn’t normally a huge gift-giving holiday, but gifts are becoming more and more common. These are especially fun when you have a spring theme and can give people plants or flowers or seeds. Plus, there are easy ways to make an Easter wish list.

Earth Day

This traditionally isn’t a time for gifts, but you can have a gift exchange that celebrates the reason for the day. Having people give each other plants or books on trees helps us reflect on what we have to do. This can be conjoined with planting seeds and plants. It’s a gift exchange, yes, but it’s also a present to future generations. 

Star Wars Day

May the 4th be with you! This is an easy one. You’re already in costume. You’re already surrounded by people who have the same passion you do. Just have a Star Wars-themed gift exchange and see who can find the most obscure, most random, most only I know this piece of trivia gift possible… and see who else knows it too! 

A Few Tips for Secret Santa Variations

We know people are going to be surprised when you tell them your Arbor Day Pig Roast is going to have a gift exchange portion. But really, they should be expecting anything, given the circumstance. But for more normal get-togethers, people might be taken aback. Here are a few ways to make things go smoothly: 

  • Set a price limit. People don’t want to buy drones for President’s Day. But putting a $20 (or less!) limit on the gifts makes it a great way to use your imagination without breaking the bank. 
  • Have a theme. For a lot of holidays, you can have themed gift ideas. But even if you don’t want everyone to get Bill Murray masks for your Groundhog’s Day party (though why not?), you can have unique gift exchange theme ideas for any reason. 
  • Use an online generator. Find an online Secret Santa generator that chooses names, allows for anonymous communication, lets people build their list from multiple stores, and lets people buy directly from their giftee’s list. The easier, the better. 

Remember that this is supposed to be fun, and with the right Secret Santa generator, it will be. You don’t need any competitions, and no one wants to upstage each other. There’s no pressure. There isn’t anyone who wins. Everyone just gets to spend quality time together, making a holiday even more memorable, and bringing that light-in-the-darkness quality to even the brightest of days.

If you want to keep Secret Santa going year-round, you need a good Secret Santa generator. Elfster makes it simple to pair people up, shop for gifts, and start a Wish List. Plus, you can access it all from an iPhone app or Android app

About Brian B 94 Articles
Brian thinks that giving someone a gift is just about the most fun you can have, so long as you don't stress out about finding the right one. He likes helping people not stress out during the holidays. Hit him up for ways to make your Christmas more fun.