Secret Santa

Why I hate Secret Santa
I really hate doing Secret Santa (some people know it as Kris Kringle), but it’s something my team at work does every year. There’s usually a $ limit – this year it was $10 – and you buy a gift for the person whose name you pick out of a hat at random (well, this year we drew names out of an envelope rather than a hat). No one knows who’s picked who. Sometimes, after the gifts have been opened, some people will reveal who they were Secret Santa to, but that’s optional. I guess it depends whether your gift appeared to be a success or not. I know I would feel embarrassed to admit I was responsible for giving someone a dud gift. I know in the past I’ve bought people dud gifts, not because I didn’t put any thought into it, but because I just had no idea what to get them. I chose something, and it didn’t work out so well. I didn’t feel good about it, and I didn’t feel good seeing their disappointment as they opened their gifts. They were polite and tried to hide their disappointment and lack of enthusiasm for their gifts, but it was pretty obvious. Being put in situations where I will be/feel embarrassed is something I try to avoid at all times. I don’t know why, but I am particularly sensitive to it. I hate being made to feel or look like a fool. Call me proud, whatever. I hate feeling uncomfortable in social situations, or having people laugh at me. But then, that’s probably true for most people.

So why do I hate Secret Santa? You may have a fair idea from what I’ve said already.

It may go back as far as primary school, when I was 12 and my Secret Santa (I know who it was and remember his full name, though I won’t write it here) gave me a big bag of stale no-name brand snack food like Chickadees (but they were cheese-flavoured rather than chicken-flavoured). I wasn’t silly enough to expect anything amazing from my Secret Santa, but I didn’t expect stale food! :) When my friends asked me what my Secret Santa had given me, I was really embarrassed to say. I guess I was embarrassed about how little my Secret Santa thought of me, conveyed via a packet of stale snack food. And it wasn’t just “a little on the old side”, it was pretty revolting – quite frankly, inedible. Of course, when I think about it now, over 20 years later, I know it probably wasn’t what he thought of me at all. He probably wasn’t into the whole Secret Santa thing and that was just what he came up with, for ‘whoever’, not necessarily specifically ‘that Chinese girl with the glasses I don’t know very well’. But at the time, I felt terrible about it, and I didn’t really know how I was supposed to react. I never told anyone else about it until this year!

I feel uncomfortable about giving someone a gift when I have no idea what he or she would like, or what he or she is interested in, or what he or she would actually use. I don’t believe blindly in “it’s the thought that counts” (just like I don’t believe in “the customer is always right”, but that’s another discussion, maybe for another day) – I’d like to give someone something he or she doesn’t already have, won’t look at and think “Huh?”, or that he or she will secretly re-gift later, or throw away, or stash away, forgotten and unused. With workmates, it can be tricky because although you get along pretty well with most of them, you don’t necessarily know that much about them personally.

It’s great if the person you have to buy a gift for is someone you know well – when that happens it can be really fun thinking about and shopping for their secret gift. I enjoy the challenge of finding something they’ll like for the $10 or whatever the limit happens to be. But when you get someone you don’t know very well… for me personally, I find it quite stressful trying to think of something good/appropriate/not stupid. I don’t just want to get a generic gift for my person. If I give someone jam, I’d like it to be because I genuinely thought they’d like the jam. I may not know what they’d love and it may not be the perfect or ideal gift, but I’d like to at least try to get them something they’ll like or use, and won’t just give away to someone else. It’s a gift for this particular person – is it so wrong that I’d like him or her to like it?

But I think what I hate most about Secret Santa (and this is based on my own experience – I know it’s not necessarily the same for everyone else) is how they make you open your gift in front of everyone else, so everyone can see what everyone’s gift is, and their reactions to their gifts. It’s not that I have high expectations for a Secret Santa gift, but I feel really self-conscious about what my natural, honest reaction will be – and I don’t like doing the phoney or polite “Thanks, that’s great…” – I hate knowing everyone (including my Secret Santa, who bought me the gift) is watching me, watching my facial expression, watching my reaction. They’ll see any hint of disappointment or bemusement. And I know how crappy I felt when I saw the person I gave a gift to didn’t like it at all – I don’t like thinking I’ll be making someone feel bad or embarrassed because I haven’t liked my gift from my Secret Santa. Again, it all relates back to my fear of feeling embarrassed or being put in an awkward situation in front of an audience. Of course, they may also see me break into a smile, if that’s just how I happen to respond.

Some of you may say, “You’re over-thinking this.” I think writing about it makes it look like over-thinking. If I’d just spoken these words, it wouldn’t look like so much “thinking”. :) But you’re right if you say I take this whole Secret Santa and gift-giving concept seriously. I tend to take most things seriously. I am a serious person, generally speaking.

Enough reflection – here come the photos!

This year’s Secret Santa
This year I was lucky – I drew the name of C, who I think of as a work friend, not just a work mate. I know her pretty well, we talk every day at work, and not just about work stuff. I know how much she loves chocolate.

I wanted to get her something a little special, rather than simply “a box of chocolates”. I went to David Jones and picked out $10 worth of handmade chocolates. $10 bought six chocolates, which came in a white cardboard box.

I made a label with a Santa Claus drawing for the top of the box, and a “lift here” tab for the sticky tape I used to hold the lid down.

Lift here

I should’ve written down the proper names of the chocolates, but since I didn’t, this was what I came up with from memory… and a sense of fun. :)

Handmade chocolates (bought from DJs, repackaged by me)

I liked the look of the snowman (I love his pointy carrot nose!). I thought C would like the mouse, pig and snowman the most. :)

Chocolates close-up

I wrote warnings on the box as I didn’t want any curious or careless team mates shaking up the box – we placed our gifts under our little Christmas tree – I’d noticed we have a few gift shakers in the team. You know who you are! Heheheh.

Secret Santa present all wrapped up

This year, my Secret Santa knew me pretty well too, and got me an EB Games voucher. Thank you Santa! Post-Christmas sales, here we come! :-D

Despite Secret Santa going well for me this year – again, I was lucky enough to know my person pretty well, and was able to get her something she really liked (her favourite chocolate out of the ones she’s eaten so far is the milk caramel mouse), and I had a lot of fun putting the gift together – I still hate doing the Secret Santa thing. At least it’s over for another year.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve done the right thing by sharing my thoughts about Secret Santa so frankly with you; I’m hoping after pouring my heart out I won’t be shot down in flames. Feel free to share your experiences and thoughts about Secret Santa.

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