Holiday gift guide: The best—and worst—Secret Santa gifts
Sometimes Secret Santa wants to stay in hiding.
When you miss the mark with a Secret Santa (aka brown bag, white elephant) gift, it’s plain to see by the group’s reaction. But when you’re on—oh, you’re on. And there’s a special kind of satisfaction in sitting back to watch the bidding wars, negotiations, steals and excitement over having brought the gift that everyone wants.
Whether you play Secret Santa with your co-workers, extended family, friends, church or other clubs, it can be tricky to pick the right gift. You’re often limited by a dollar cap, and need to think of something that a wide variety of ages, tastes and all genders could enjoy.
We asked our readers to share their best tips and Secret Santa gifts—and the worst. After we stopped laughing, we decided to share them with you. Here’s their stories.
The worst Secret Santa gifts—ever:
“AutoZone gift card from a merchandise return someone made for $23.48 ($25 limit).” —Sarah
“We do a neighborhood Christmas Eve party. One year, the family hosting it had Grandma, who was not familiar with the term ‘white elephant,’ wrap the gifts for the party. She unknowingly wrapped up the ‘real gifts’ and put them under the tree and up for grabs.” —Brittany
“Someone at work brought a box of generic cereal to our white elephant. There was booing involved.” —Annie
“A Chinese takeout box full of live crickets.” —Tara
“For a few years at our work party, two things got passed around: a fake plastic butt (only $3.99!) and lingerie a teacher had received from a student.” —Erin
“A full tray of food stolen from Casa Bonita and wrapped up.” —Rob
“A re-gifted dish set that I recognized from the wedding gift I had given them a few months earlier.” —Lindsey
Want to avoid these mistakes? Here are some good Secret Santa ideas:
Starbucks (or another local coffee shop) gift set: Most people can find something they enjoy at Starbucks, so it’s a practical yet indulgent gift. Starbucks stores have a gift station right now where you can mix and match various goodies (coffee beans, chocolate, cookies, ornaments, mugs) in a gift bag. Couldn’t be easier to find and package a good gift that meets the set limit. Tip: Did you know you can buy your Starbucks goodies online and get 3 percent Cash Back?
An iTunes gift card: Whether to buy games, apps, music or movies, who can’t use a little iTunes cash?
A beautiful ornament: Many of us have Christmas trees up and would enjoy a lovely new ornament to mark this year’s celebrations. Pottery Barn has the most incredible ornaments we’ve ever seen, like this feather icicle ornament or this house and tree pedestal ornament, which benefits the Give A Little Hope Campaign—for only $10.
A pre-curated gift set: Drawing a blank? Look for pre-made gift sets at specialty stores, like this Secret Santa Gift Set from Lush Cosmetics. This nicely packaged gift contains a Christmas bath bomb and toffee-scented soap, both which can be enjoyed by men, women and kids.