A not-so-Secret Santa – unwrapping surprise gifts traversed from afar

13:21, December 23, 2009      

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Jennifer Eden

When some friends of mine suggested a "Secret Santa" gift-giving arrangement for yet another pre-Christmas lunch, I jumped on the bandwagon with glee, loving the thought of continuing a seasonal tradition that involves presents, which in my opinion, you can never have too much of.

With a set spending limit, I took to the shops in earnest in search of something extra-special that I then wrapped and prepared to place under the tree, attached with the name of the person to whom I was assigned.

In Australia, that is how Secret Santa works. You get given a name. You buy a present for that person. You wrap it, attach the assigned person's name and place it under the tree. Your identity remains a secret. Hence the name "Secret Santa." A simpler alternative is that you just buy a random present, place it under the tree and at a specified time, everyone makes a run for it and claims whatever present they wish.

Arriving at my lunch and placing my present under the tree, (it wasn't really a tree, it was a chair, but if you squinted your eyes and used some imagination, you could have pretended it was a tree), I noticed that there were several presents without a label.

Expressing my concern that something had gone terribly wrong and how would the person now know which present was for whom without revealing the secret giver, I found that apparently "Secret Santa" means completely different things in different parts of the world – a situation that probably should have been clarified before the whole procedure began.

After much discussion about what we should do next, we decided that each person should stick to their own Secret Santa tradition.

My South American friends played a very cool game that involved the giver holding the present and offering three clues about who the secret recipient was – after three guesses the opportunity to claim passes and the next giver begins their clues. The process continues until the last present is left. Fun.

My Chinese friend opted for a version that she had discovered on her travels known as "Thieving Secret Santa," which allows a recipient to steal someone else's already-opened gift rather than opening a new one themselves! So she wanted to wait until last. Ha!

The lone Canadian in the group said that everyone should be blindfolded and one at a time the blindfolds of the givers removed and gifts placed in front of the intended recipient. Then, the person must guess who the Secret Santa is or the giver confess.

A final option put forward was "Dirty Santa" where names are randomly drawn in order and when chosen, you carefully select (inspection and/or shaking encouraged) and unwrap a gift.

The next person repeats the ritual and decides whether to keep it or swap for a pre-opened one. Finally, the person who picked first gets to choose from all the gifts or keep what he/she has already received. Complicated!
Each sticking to what we knew, the blending of cultures made for a spectacularly fun afternoon and paired with a beautifully decorated Christmas table, a wonderfully festive tradition that seems to have made it to most corners of the world, including Beijing.

Our not-so-Secret Santa celebration had it's own unique flavor, which is commonly the case in my internationally adorned home.

Source: Global Times
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