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An Alternative to Secret Santa

For a few years now the adults in my family-in-law have not bought each other presents but have indulged in a Secret Santa so secret that no one know who they are getting a present for. Everyone buys a gift and then they are distributed randomly. Last year I decided to codify and develop the rules for this game in order to make it more methodical and to eliminate the ability of couples to work together to get the gift they wanted.

This is good fun. Takes about an hour and is usually a source of much hilarity and mirth. Last year we tried these rules for the first time and it was a great success, for everyone except me. I had bought a truly awful booby prize (a giant second hand soft toy Santa) and delighted in seeing someone else open it with horror and revulsion but with almost the last stroke of the game I ended up holding it much to everyone else's amusement.

Robinson Rules for Secret Santa Distribution Game, version 1


Everyone buys one quality secret santa present in the $15-20, wraps it and marks it with a clear "S".
Everyone also recycles, free-cycles, re-gifts, or buys, a booby prize of any value, wraps it and clearly marks it with a "B". Booby prize should not be dirty or hazardous to health. Booby prize may even be something someone might want!

Round 1: distribution

Starting with the birthday boy everyone chooses one S and one B gift for the person on their left, going around the circle clockwise until everyone has an S and a B gift. The gifts should be presented with a jovial comedy greeting like "merry christmas big nose!", "I hope you get a pony," or similar. Presents remain wrapped.

Round 2: blind swaps

Starting with the youngest each person takes it in turns to roll a die in an anti-clockwise direction.
If you roll...
1 or 2 swap your booby prize with another player.
3 or 4 swap your santa present with another player.
5 or 6 swap your S and B gifts with one or more players, i.e. you do not have to swap both with same player.
All round 2 swaps are compulsory, presents remain wrapped. Round 2 ends when everyone has had a turn.

Round 3: unwrapping and stealing

Starting with the person closest to the tv and proceeding first in a clockwise direction around the circle each person rolls the die. The round begins with all presents still wrapped, it ends when all presents are unwrapped. Swaps will occur with both wrapped and unwrapped presents.

If you roll . . .
1, 2 or 3 You must either unwrap one (either one but only one) of your presents or nominate another player's present to be unwrapped.
4 you must swap your B prize with another player
5 you may swap your S prize with another player or you may choose to pass
6 you must swap both your prizes with one other player

The game continues around the circle until all presents are unwrapped. The final unwrapper may roll the die one last time to give a chance of swapping.

Everyone must purchase their own secret santa gift (Spouses may not buy gifts because the other doesn't have time/can't be bothered).

To avoid feeling awkward when a formerly respected member of your family crushes your happiness by stealing your prized gift prepare some choice phrases with which to healthily and honourably express yourself, e.g. "you sir are a tinsel clad cad and a bounder," "a plague on both your seasonally decorated houses," or "may the fleas of a thousand Christmas reindeer infest your armpits," etc.


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