Getting the Secret Santa Gift Wrong

(And how to get it right)
Written by: Adele Halsall

Whether you do it with family, friends or colleagues, Secret Santa may as well be as much a part of the season as Christmas pud.

But it can undoubtedly be a risky game. While many Secret Santas can be an affordable way to connect with a loved one or feel closer to your team at work, they can also bring about a whole other level of stress and disappointment.

There are those that go all out to find the perfect present, only to receive something totally awful in return. Or those people that leave it till the last minute, only to fall back on a fully mediocre item that nobody in their right mind would ask for.

We’ve found some truly miserable Secret Santa stories below...and offer some tips for getting yours right this year.

“I have been a rematcher [of Reddit’s Secret Santa] three times. Christmas Cards, Colors, and Magnets. None of my rematch giftees thanked me, or even posted the gift in the gallery. The Christmas Card was easy to buy and send, I was not that disappointed. But, I spent a lot of time, and about $40, on The Colors gift. I even exchanged messages with the girl, asking, for more details on her likes. The gift was tailored-made for her. I sent her gift Priority Mail, with tracking, so I know it was delivered.”


  • Reddit user


“I did one with a group of friends. One of the people I didn't know very well gave me a used condom...very awkward. I think in his mind he was trying to be funny.”


  • Reddit user

                               gtsspw - do you love bad birthday gift

“Got a three-dollar convenience store plastic bulls**t toy. I wasn't rematched. The [Reddit] customer service pretty much told me tough sh*t. I wasn't expecting much, but this turned me off of doing Reddit's Secret Santa ever again.


  • Reddit user


“The best - opera tickets. The worst - an air freshener hanger for my car. I don't care how posh they are, air freshener is still air freshener.”


  • Igylsen, UK Business Forums


“A pair of fluffy red dice. Fortunately I was rather inebriated, so found them hilariously appropriate at the time....”


  • Ginantonic, UK Business Forums


“We had ours split into boys and girls last year - one of the girls ended up with an iron, but didn't really see the funny side.....though I did.”


  • Marla102, UK Business Forums

                             gtsspw - what is this

"I got a Bible from a co-worker. She's very religious. I'm not, but figured she meant well. I opened it up and there were HIGHLIGHTED PASSAGES that she used to pass judgement on my life. Pretty much anything about sex, women's clothing, and nonbelievers. It was crazy!"


— angelag4e427edbe, BuzzFeed


"At my family white elephant party, my aunt wrapped a vibrator as a gift. My very unlucky grandmother was the one to grab that particular gift. It was extremely uncomfortable for everyone, especially on Jesus' birthday."


— lindsays4b35a5283, BuzzFeed


"I got a fake iPod. It was so bad that Apple was misspelled. On the plus side, Celine Dion's 'My Heart Will Go On' was preloaded."


— allegrachloe4, BuzzFeed

                          gtsspw - do you love it

"I said I liked face masks (like, for skin care) and I got those cardboard animal masks on sticks that you find at the dollar store and give to your child to color and play with."


— claireb424854df2, BuzzFeed


“I opened it up to find a pair of ‘booty pop’ shorts! These padded shorts are designed to add curvature to your otherwise ‘flat’ posterior. I was fortunate enough to receive the ‘midnight black’ edition. Still haven't taken it out of the packaging, it's somewhere around the office.”


  • Brad Simon,


“Mine was a Christmas card with the words ‘buy your own gift’. It seems the woman who gave it forgot to put the gift certificate inside the Christmas card!”


  • Rochelle Peachey,

                                gtsspw - weird

“A plastic Dennis the Menace toy slingshot that had clearly been used before. I was a 26 year old woman – I still don’t understand what went through their head at the time!”


  • Lisa,


“I was once given a bag of bird feed. I’ve never expressed (nor have) any interest in birds – and it was just a plastic bag of bird food. No feeder with it or anything.”


  • Sian,


“Any deodorant or shower gel pack I always think are terrible as other than being completely mundane, it gives off the impression you are implying they are a bit smelly.”


  • Jack,


“Occasionally I have received emails commencing ‘Hi Booby’ (freudian slip?). My present a few years back was a pair of fake breasts – which I have NEVER found a use for.”


  • Bobby,


“A pack of plastic ‘racing willies’ that still reside on my desk.”


  • Rich,

Getting The Secret Santa Wrong   Handing Gift

Get the Secret Santa right this year…

Nobody wants to be responsible for ruining somebody’s Christmas, so do yourself (and your giftee!) a favour and stick to these general guidelines:

                          Getting The Secret Santa Wrong   Now Listen Carfeully Dear

  • Start by finding as much out about your giftee as you can. If it’s a mate or relative, this shouldn’t be too hard, but you can still play detective even if its a distant colleague. Ask members of their team, peer at their desk for clues of their interests and hobbies, and make small talk in the kitchen. Whatever you need to do, going the extra mile will give you a good starting point.

  • You can still find something thoughtful even if there is a strict budget restriction on your SS. Think of homemade gifts, tokens or keepsakes relating to something they’ve shown interest in, or even something useful like themed stationary, mugs or keychains. These small items are only allowed however if the set budget is really tight (say less than £5). If not, then don’t even think about it.

  • It’s tempting to go for a gimmicky gag gift or something that will raise a titter amongst colleagues. The truth is that these gifts quickly find their way to the trash, and your giftee will secretly feel like they lost out. Instead, go for something thoughtful over silly. References to in-jokes are allowed of course, so long as you know your giftee really well (like, you’re practically best buds).

  • Food, wine and treats always make great gifts. But instead of offering something you rustled out of your food cupboard, go for something that’s presented like a gift (see food hampers, boxes of posh chocolates and biscuits). Nobody will appreciate fruit, so don’t go there. And if you do give wine (and there’s no £5 budget), try not to go for the cheapest one at the grocery store, especially if the person is a wine-lover. They’ll instantly know.

  • Shower gel might seem like a fail-safe present, but it always ends up with that person feeling self-conscious. So avoid any personal hygiene products, unless you’re giving to a family member or close friend...or it’s something really damn expensive.

  • Books can be great gifts - they’re inexpensive and are basically like giving the gift of knowledge. But be careful with what you choose. Self-improvement or weight loss books can be taken as a hint so are a no-go. Novels are great, but only if that person has already shown an interest in that particular genre or author. If they’re passionate about a certain topic, like home renovation, then a how-to book can go down well in this scenario.

  • Never, ever give someone a gift that looks like you bought it at a pound shop, or found it in the glove compartment of your car, or picked up at the garage, or pulled out of the trash pile at your house. This seems like an obvious rule, but it’s amazing how many people think they can get away with it.

                               Getting The Secret Santa Wrong   Present

If that’s you...just stop.


Looking to throw a bangin’ Christmas party at which to exchange your Secret Santa gifts? Take a look at our 2018 Christmas party ideas.

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