The Rudest Things You Can Do When Taking Part In A Secret Santa

It's the most wonderful time of the year...
SandraMirey Photography via Getty Images

Yup, we hate it to break it you but the the season of giving is nearly upon us once again and with it comes the dreaded work commitment of secret Santa.

The present-giving tradition can be tricky to navigate, with unspoken rules and potential faux pas that can put a dampener on festive spirits.

And to add to the stress, the office secret Santa comes with even more challenges; in the world of WFH, we don’t get to know our co-workers like we used to, so it can be difficult to know what to buy.

It’s therefore unsurprising that Google searches for ‘secret Santa’ have risen by a whopping 1,575% in the last month, as people start desperately searching for inspiration.

Fortunately for you, gifting expert Emily Carr at Create Gift Love has given us an education on secret Santa etiquette so you can avoid embarrassment when unwrapping rolls around.


The first step in organising a secret Santa is deciding on a budget that everyone is comfortable with, so that everyone is able to afford to buy something and no one feels pressured to spend too much – so make sure you stick to it!

“Choose thoughtfulness rather than extravagance,” says Carr. “It can be awkward for everyone involved if one person goes way above the agreed upon budget, and make others feel bad for not spending as much.”


Avoid impersonal gifts that seem thoughtless and rushed – something personal shows that you’ve taken time to think about what they might like.

“A personal gift shows that you’ve put in some effort, whether it’s an item personalised with their initials. Make sure you’ve taken the time to consider the recipients interests and hobbies to get something you know they’ll actually use, rather than something they’ll end up regifting,” suggests Carr.


A personal gift is great, but don’t make it too personal. Think about your audience and keep it appropriate.

Carr says: “If you’re with friends, it might be ok to go for something a little risqué, but at the office Christmas party, presenting a colleague with something NSFW is not a good idea, even if they’re your work bestie. Your boss and other colleagues might not find it as funny as you do!”


Providing a wish list can be handy, especially for an office secret Santa, when you perhaps don’t know each other very well. If not, you can try to drop some hints into conversation about your likes, dislikes and hobbies – but don’t go over the top.

Carr says: “Dropping some subtle hints is a good idea, but hinting too hard can make it awkward – especially if what you’re asking for is out of the budget, or you’re talking to someone who has already bought your gift and it’s nothing like you’re hinting for.”


If going for the food or drink option, make sure you do a little research first.

“Getting a bottle of wine and popping it into a gift bag is a very easy option, and might be perfect for friends and family if you know what they like, but don’t forget about potential restrictions your co-worker might have. There are many reasons that they might not drink, or may not eat certain things due to allergies or dietary requirements, meaning the box of chocolates you’ve bought will go untouched,” warns Carr.


Don’t be the person who forgets to say they’re not taking part, and gets a gift themselves but doesn’t contribute, meaning someone else misses out.

“If you decide you can’t afford to take part in the secret Santa, make sure you let whoever’s organised it know as soon as possible so no-one ends up giftless on the day. If you’re on a tight budget, there are plenty of creative and thoughtful ways to take part and present someone with a gift without spending any money,” says Carr.

“Don’t forget to say thank you – whether you like your gift or not! Don’t forget it’s about the fun of the mystery and the activity, not just about what you receive.”

Pass the wrapping paper...