Secret Santa All Year Long

cat on Christmas packages

In my previous article on hosting a neighborhood progressive Christmas party, I mentioned a Secret Santa exchange. Each year, towards the end of the party, our children did the exchange and then drew names for the following year. Why, you might wonder, would we draw names so early for the following year’s party? The answer is simple, our drawing was for our Secret Santa all year long.

For a traditional Secret Santa exchange, participants draw names a few weeks before Christmas and then exchange gifts of a certain monetary value just one time. Our exchange, however, lasted an entire year.

Secret Santa All Year Long

Each year, we began the exchange during our annual Christmas party. Each child would be given a small piece of paper to write his or her name and a little bit of information. This usually included age and birthday, shirt size, grade in school, and maybe a few interests. Parents would obviously help the little ones. Then all the names would go into a big bowl.

Large red bow on a Christmas package
Traditions are important for giving kids a sense of normal during these uncertain times.

The children then line up to draw their exchange buddy, or Secret Santa, for the year. A parent would double check the name to be certain that they hadn’t drawn themselves or a sibling. If they did, the paper would go back into the bowl and that child would draw again.

Once in hand, that child had his or her Secret Santa for the entire year. That child was in charge of sneaking little treats and surprises to their buddy all year long, without being detected. To keep things from getting out of hand, we assigned a maximum price limit for each holiday. Our structure for the year went like this:

Valentine’s Day$5 limit
Easter$5 limit
July 4$5 limit
Halloween$5 limit
Birthday$10 limit
Christmas$25 limit
Keeping the limits low for the exchange made it more affordable for families with multiple children.

Mysterious Giving and Receiving

The limits were fairly low. This was really supposed to be just a small prize for the recipient, perhaps snacks or small toys from a local dollar store. The fun, for most of the kids, was in trying to guess their secret benefactor.

And the prize for the giver? Trying to go the entire year without being detected. They had great fun in shopping and picking out prizes for their buddies. It was hilarious watching the kids dodge alongside houses, through back yards, and hiding in the bushes. They would tuck the prizes away on front porches, back decks, and even in garages left open for the afternoon.

Christmas gifts ready for a gift exchange
Having the Secret Santa all year exchange allowed the kids in the neighborhood to stay connected all year long.

At the culmination of the year, the progressive neighborhood Christmas party, the kids sat in a circle. Holding their final gifts on their laps, they were giddy with anticipation. One at a time, they would take their best guess. Who was their Secret Santa?

Once all the guesses were made, the Secret Santas would reveal themselves and give their final gift of the year. Then, shortly after the final exchange, the cycle would begin again as everyone’s name went back into the giant bowl.

The Secret Santa exchange was a great game for the kids. It kept them engaged with their neighborhood family all year long.

Traditions in a Socially Distanced World

Because COVID restrictions have most of our children socially distanced this year, keeping and establishing traditions is even more important for their socialization and mental health. I’m sharing tips from our Secret Santa all year long because it can be a great new tradition to start and can be done with proper social distancing.

Start the tradition this holiday. A neighborhood Zoom call can start the process. One adult can draw names and secretly share with each child. Then, during 2021, the children can sneak gifts to each other all while staying safely away from others.

Christmas lights lead the path to a holiday party.
The holidays are built on familiarity and tradition.

Certainly 2021 holds brighter days for us all. But, even if we are still in some sort of lock down next Christmas, this activity could be adapted to a virtual gift exchange.
I hope you’ve found some information here you can use. Use your creativity and make this idea your own for your neighborhood, or even your family. I’m certain you can adapt it to your work or office setting as well.

If you’re looking for great food for your holiday party, check out our recipe page. We’ve got a great recipe for my mom’s favorite Holiday Cheese Ball and you’ll find the best Christmas cutout cookies.

Thanks again for FindingOhio with us. And, as always, we appreciate you sharing our content on social media as we try to grow this site and share the wonders of the Buckeye State.

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