Behind the not-so-secret Secret Santa gift exchanges


Fatima Ali

 In the midst of a grueling marathon of studying for finals, some friend groups have decided to launch a Secret Santa campaign in an effort to raise morale and de-stress. No matter how inexpensive or austere the gifts may be, these friends still cherish their holiday tradition and take heart in the gesture that precedes the words ‘Happy Holidays’.

Junior Elizabeth Ngo
Elizabeth Ngo
Photo by Fatima Ali

El Estoque: Why did your friend group choose to do Secret Santa instead of a regular gift exchange?
Elizabeth Ngo: I think it’s more exciting because you don’t know who you’re getting the gift from, especially because not everyone in [our group] knows everyone very well, so I think it helps us get to know each other more. We get to learn about what they like and go out and get it for them.
EE: Does Secret Santa have any specific negative or positive impacts on your friend group?
EN: Nothing really negative happened last year, even if we [don’t] get exactly what we want, we still receive a gift from someone, and they do put time into it. So, I think if you look at it with a more positive outlook, it’s really good and I don’t think in any way it would be a negative kind of thing to receive gifts.
EE: How does your group determine Secret Santa assignments?
EN: Last year was my first time doing Secret Santa and we just pulled names out of a hat then. But this time, we used an online secret Santa generator, so the computer did it for us. I think that the old way is more fun because you choose it yourself; the physical grabbing of the name is a little more interesting than the computer spitting, ‘You got this person.’
EE: Does your friend group keep their gifting plans a secret? Or does everyone know by the end?      
EN: Well, I don’t know how the group is doing right now, because we haven’t talked about it that much because we’re keeping it secret, but one person in the group and I have already figured out a part of it. But we don’t like ruining surprises. We like to keep it on the down-low because it’s not a surprise if we know.

Sophomore Keerat Singh
Keerat Singh
Photo by Fatima Ali

El Estoque: Why did your friend group decide to do Secret Santa?
Keerat Singh: We decided to do gift-giving because we thought it would be cool and fun [for the holidays,] and we decided to [specifically] do Secret Santa because we can’t afford super awesome gifts for everyone, but if we do Secret Santa, everyone gets awesome gifts and you can put more thought into what you’re doing.
EE: Can you describe the impacts of SS on your friend group?

KS: It’s definitely positive; you get to know people better. You have to figure out what people like so I guess that’s positive. Nothing negative has really happened, besides procrastination, but that’s going to happen no matter what you do.
EE: How did your group determine who each person would be assigned to?
KS: We used a website; I just googled ‘Secret Santa name generator’ and chose the [first one].
EE: Has your group kept SS assignments secret so far, or have members found out amongst themselves already?
KS: I don’t know for sure what other people decided to share. No one knows who has them, and no one knows Of course, if you feel that one person knows another person better, then your going to ask them what the person would like, and you can figure out who has who that way.

Senior William Li
William Li
Photo by Fatima Ali

El Estoque: Why did your friend group decide to do Secret Santa instead of just regular gift-giving?
William Li: We started doing it last year and I think this year is kind of a continuation from last year. This year, our friend group is a bigger group now. Instead of having to spend money on every single friend in the group, that’s kind of a lot of buying and also of going shopping and stuff. It’s definitely more convenient, I believe, to just have one person each.
Also, it definitely adds to the fun, when it’s secret so you have a party at the end to try to figure out who gave who presents.
EE: Are there any negative or positive impacts on your friend group because of SS?
WL: It does not have any negative impacts. I would say it has some positive impacts because it brings us closer together a little bit and it’s just another memory that we share.
EE: How did you guys determine who got who when picking?
WL: Someone else mainly planned it; Cynthia Shen, a senior. She used this online website called where basically everyone just entered their name and information and they pick randomly. People can put [items] on their wish list in order for their Secret Santa to know what they want.
EE: Have you had any memorable moments during Secret Santa?
WL: During lunch [last year],  we had a little meet-up to guess who gave presents and stuff like that.
EE: Who had the idea to do Secret Santa in your group?
WL: Last year, I think [Shen] came up with the idea, since she takes  more leadership roles in our friend group. But this year, it was on everyone’s mind. Everyone knew it was going to happen.

Co-written by Bill Cheng.