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How to Host a Secret Santa with Your Friends

friends and secret santa

A Secret Santa is an ideal option for a gift exchange when you’re a university student, as it means you won’t exceed your monthly budget just buying gifts — even if you have many friends. Plus, it adds an extra element of mystery to the gift giving. It’s appropriate for groups of all sizes, and you can adapt the rules to work for your group.

The Basics

To play Secret Santa, you’ll first need to compile a list of everyone who wants to be involved. You’ll then randomly assign each participant someone else — the name you receive is the person you need to buy a gift for.

Traditional Rules

The original version of the game involved writing down names on pieces of paper and having each person draw one at random. Today, however, you can use an online name generator for the game — this means you won’t all need to be in the same room to receive your names, but it still keeps everything secret.

It’s common to set a budget for the gifts. This will mean no one feels pressured to spend too much and all the gifts will have around the same value. If you like, you can ask participants to request certain types of gifts — this can work well if some people don’t know each other well. Alternatively, you could set a theme for the year. Either option makes it easier for the gift givers to figure out what to buy.

Lastly, you’ll need to arrange a date when everyone is available to meet for the gift exchange. Ideally, this will be a few days before the end of the semester — when you’re all in a seasonal mood but not too preoccupied with returning home. At the party, everyone should place gifts in the center of the room, ensuring each one is labeled with the recipient’s (but not the gift giver’s) name. You then take turns to open the gifts addressed to each of you and see who can correctly guess who was the gift giver.

Playing with Friends from Around the World

You can also involve friends from all over the globe in your Secret Santa. This is a great option if you have contacts at other universities, such as foreign exchange students who are now back in their home countries. The game works in exactly the same way — the only differences are you’ll be holding the exchange party over video chat and you’ll need to make sure you ship gifts early enough to arrive in time for the event.

If you decide to organize a traditional Secret Santa with just friends attending the same university, you’ll need to find a place where you can gather to open the gifts together. If you have enough space, this can be your apartment. You can find spacious suites for rent at King Street Towers. In addition, our Waterloo off-campus housing also has some great communal areas on site, such as the rooftop with a fire pit. Book a tour to see it for yourself.

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