It looks like Christmas came early this year. Rather, it's going to if you’ve come here looking for the best virtual secret Santa ideas!
Most of us are now used to working virtually and interacting with each other remotely. Your secret Santa is likely to be online this year and will continue to be so for a year or two more. So keep reading to know who made it to Santa’s Naughty or Nice lists!
1 What is a Virtual Secret Santa?
A virtual secret Santa is the online version of this time-honored tradition of exchanging gifts. The giver’s identity remains a secret but can be guessed depending on how acquainted one is with their coworkers’ preferences. You can play virtual secret Santa with anyone online, from friends and family to coworkers.
Playing secret Santa online is slightly different from playing it in person. Instead of passing around a bowl of paper chits for the team to pick turn by turn, you enter the participant’s names on a random name generator. The Santas know who they’re giving their gift to, but their identity isn’t revealed before the recipient tries guessing it!
2 Why do we play Secret Santa?
Secret Santa keeps everyone in suspense because no one knows who their Santa is. Where’s the fun in already knowing what’s inside the wrapped box?
In the office, someone from HR or your team passes around a bowl full of chits for everyone to pick. Each person pulls one out at random and unfolds it to see who they’re supposed to get a present for.
Virtual secret Santa is a bit different, though, since everyone’s congregating online and the above exercise is not going to make it through your broadband. Instead, you use random name generators like secretsantaorganizer, elfster or drawnames and create invite links for those who are participating in Secret Santa virtual. They then enter their names and the generator sorts them out digitally.
Whether offline or online, secret Santa is guaranteed to put a smile on your and a coworker’s face!
3 How do you hold a Virtual Secret Santa at work?
3.1 Set a Budget
The first step is to pick a gift limit that everyone can afford, bearing in mind any extra charges for shipping that is applicable. No one should feel pressured into getting their recipient an impractical and/or expensive gift. It gives the remote team equal footing and lets the Santas earmark or wishlist gifts. Also, once the budget is fixed and communicated to the office party attendees in advance, there’s also the likelihood that they’ll find the gifts at a discount on time.
3.2 Pick a date
Traditionally, secret Santa is played on the eve or Christmas day. This is in line with the belief that Jolly ol’ St. Nick will slide down the chimney with his sack of gifts for little children! If your office is observing that week as a holiday, you can do it ahead by a week to ensure that everyone’s present and accounted for before the holidays.
3.3 Use an online Secret Santa generator
It would be ideal if everyone is willing to go in on a gift trade,but no pressure! Send the link to an online Secret Santa generator to all interested participants. A few sites that create wish lists by name and email are
- Arcanis: Arcanis is an open source tool developed from Github’s repositories. It asks you to enter all your names on the right hand side and then generates individual links for people to use to know who they have to buy gifts for!
- DrawNames: This site’s generator lets you reuse last year’s list in a way that prevents repetitions in pairings. Participants can also choose two names instead of one.
- Mywishlistonline: My wishlist online works like the other sites listed, but with a small difference. It lets you add exclusions (such as participant A not drawing participant C’s name, and vice versa). Once you confirm the event date, the list goes out to the named participants.
- Prezzybox: Prezzybox lets you enter your details and a personal message before moving on to the Secret Santa list. The email addresses entered notifies the recipient of them being registered for the virtual secret Santa gift exchange.
3.4 Invite participants to share their wish list
Once the list gets mailed to everyone, the next step is to keep tabs of special requests. If you’re the organizer, you can make sure that the right requests get seen by Santa so that they can find and buy it in time.
3.5 Mail the gifts
Check in with the team about a week before the game to see if everyone was able to get their virtual secret Santa gifts and mail it to the person. They can give you the tracking numbers or reference if the shipment is still in transit. Adjust the date of the event according to everyone confirming that they’ve received their gifts and can make it to the meeting.
3.6 Exchange Gifts through Video calls
Now it's time to do virtual secret Santa! Turn your video on and exchange greetings. You can also do 1 or 2 icebreaker activities just to get the conversation going. On the count of 3, everyone starts unwrapping their presents on camera. You can ask people turn by turn to guess who their secret Santa could be. Don’t confirm or deny it until all guesses are in and all presents have been opened.
4 Virtual Secret Santa Gift Ideas
4.1 Bombas Socks
I know socks seem like a rather cheap, last-minute gift to buy. But don’t judge Bombas socks until you’ve tried them on! Bombas also donates a portion of any sale made to the homeless. The socks themselves are engineered for comfort, and are made with long staple yarns and merino wool, which have antimicrobial and moisture-wicking properties. So if you are looking for virtual Secret Santa gift ideas, this one is a great one. Plus everyone needs socks, its really a no-brainer.
Whoever gets these bombas socks for their coworker is a real one, because Bombas are Da-Bomb!
4.2 Wireless Charger
A wireless charger is always a practical and useful Secret Santa virtual gift for people who use their mobiles in cars or when traveling or transiting. If you know what phone your coworker uses, you can get them a compatible charger. Or, you could always use a universally-adaptable charger such as the TOZO wireless fast charging pad that works with wireless charging enabled devices such as iPhones, Samsung or Nokia.
4.3 Milk Frother
Personally, I’d take a pot that doesn’t let the milk boil all over the stove, but you do you! If your coworker is a coffee lover* and knows their Lattes and Espressos, ordering them a milk frother might just be the thing they need to log in to work fresh and bright eyed!
A milk frother is a motorized handheld tool that creates foam from milk which can be used in your morning caffeine. Our personal pick is the PowerLix Milk Frother and Whisk Foam maker.
This mixer runs on battery.All you’ll need to do is immerse the frother into the cup and turn it on. The magic happens in 20 seconds or less!
*- Team SIWOM runs on ginger tea and coffee, so some of us would definitely love to see a frother on the gift list!
4.4 Grow your own Salsa
This one is already one of my favorite virtual Secret Santa gift ideas! If a coworker loves plants and grows them, consider getting them the salsa growing kit which contains six seed packets for Roma tomatoes, cilantro and jalapenos. You can find the grow salsa kit on Uncommongoods which ships all over the U.S. The kit contains recycled egg cartons, instructions and plant stakes to help you track how you're planting them. Uncommongoods also sell avocado sprouters, seedling starter boxes and other succulents if you want to opt for a microgarden!
4.5 Wine Glasses
Wine glasses are an elegant addition to your dining table. If your virtual secret Santa gives you a set, then you have something new to show off at your next virtual happy hour!
We like TheCrateandBarrel’s Lucia Tulip Red Wine Glass and the Hip Wine glasses. The latter contains an assortment of shapes per glass.
4.6 Fruit-infused Water Bottle
Fruit Infused-water bottles from Fruitzola by Good living are the best way to stay hydrated! The bottle comes with an infuser pump to work in the fruit flavors and make for a great Secret Santa virtual gift. You can fill the inside of the tube with any fruit of your choice - berries, citrus or mint and sip from it all day as you work. It is spill proof and fits in most car cups, thanks to the cap screws.
4.7 Exploding Kittens
The exploding kittens is a game created by Elan Lee and Mathew Inman, author, programmer and the man behind Oatmealcomics.If you’ve laughed at some of Inman’s relatable humor about work meetings, cats and coffee, you’ll definitely enjoy playing this card game! Also it doesn't hurt that its one of the best virtual Secret Santa gift ideas.
The objective is to avoid drawing an Exploding kitten card. Players take turns dealing cards, and if someone gets an exploding card, they blow up and are booted out of the game. You can stay alive by strategizing how to defuse the kittens using an array of weapons, such as laser pointers or catnip sandwiches. Introduce this card game at your next Fun Friday to surprise your coworkers or guests! Another great thing? It's a great Secret Santa team-building game.
4.8 Engraved artefacts
Artifacts such as a brass mini telescope, sailor’s compass, or binoculars can be thoughtful secret Santa gift for people who like collecting antiques. They are a little more indulgent as far as virtual secret Santa ideas go but people do really enjoy them.
Buzzfeed had done a gift box swap between their Indian and US offices, and one of the colleagues was gifted a beautifully engraved set of binoculars from India! If the budget is between $20 to 40, try Stanley London’s website. The store carries nautical instruments, pocket compasses and engravable plaques.
We particularly liked the antique look of their brass pocket compass which costs just USD6 (without personalized engraving).
4.9 Weighted Blankets
If you know your colleague has trouble falling asleep, these weighted blankets are the perfect creature comfort to get them a good night’s rest. Weighted blankets are heavier and designed to mimic hugging, which creates a sense of security and make for a great Secret Santa virtual gift.
It can fit a king or queen bed. The YnM glass bead blanket is made up of 7 layers that contours to the shape of your body.
4.10 The Northpole brunch
Have you and your coworkers ever talked of getting a virtual brunch or social lunch together during the weekday, which so far didn’t materialize? Well, here’s your chance to host a special north pole brunch using the Foodie’s dice! This gift pouch has 5 primary dice for protein and 4 for seasonal veggies.
If brunch isn’t on the cards, you can also use the foodie dice to lock down on a meal to cook for yourself. The best part? It's vegetarian and vegan-friendly, so you can mix and rotate dishes according to everyone’s preferences!
5.1 How to play Secret Santa virtual on Zoom?
- Fix a date and time according to the arrival of gifts to every recipient and their availability for an all hands call.
- Arrange for party snacks and a cocktail package to go to all participants to get them into the holiday mood. Order this separately to surprise them!
- Send a Zoom invite link via email and include information about the event, such as the dress code (optional).
- Send out a reminder before the event and use the opportunity to check in on the gift ETA (already reached, in transit, or delayed?).
- Once everyone joins, break the ice with a few virtual team building activities, icebreaker questions and guess-the-gift rounds before unwrapping presents.
- Play a drinking game when players guess who the virtual secret Santa is. If the guess is wrong, he, or she has to down a drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic).
5.2 How do you plan a Secret Santa at work?
Planning a secret Santa at work when everyone’s remote requires a great deal of coordination.
- You’ll need to ask for a show of hands for who all will be interested in getting and giving gifts.
- Once the names are in, run them through a random name generator and send the pairing.Any special requests can also be added as a note to the gifter.
- Everyone should ensure that the items they’re shopping for can be delivered to the recipient's location.
- Factor in the delivery time to make sure it reaches them in time for the event.
- Record the unboxing and take as many screenshots as you want, because this will be an exchange everyone will want to fondly reminisce about later!
5.3 How do I pull names virtually?
Online name generators and secret Santa organizers can help you fill out the details such as the person’s name and email. They’ll be automatically sent a link to see who they will be buying the gift for.
5.4 What is the best online Secret Santa?
The best sites to play online secret Santa are
5.4 How to do a Secret Santa online?
To do a Secret Santa online all you need to do is make a list of people who are playing, match them up randomly with other people to exchange gifts and then just convene together online on a video conferencing platform to open them together.