The Magic in My Family’s Secret Santa Tradition

secret santaWhen I was in elementary school, my family started our Secret Santa tradition. It was my mom’s idea because she wanted to facilitate the spirit of giving in my sister and me and didn’t want us to be passive gift recipients on Christmas day.

The process went like this: We wrote names on pieces of paper that my mom put in a bowl from which we drew right after our Thanksgiving meal. We would use our own allowance money to buy the gifts, and initially, our gift budget was $20. My sister and I made sure to select our gift carefully, wrap it in Christmas-themed paper, and place it under the tree that we were responsible for decorating. I know in the beginning we needed help, but as time went on, we were doing the entire process independently.

We quickly discovered my mom’s pattern of trying to get us to reveal who had who and pretending to tell us who she had. She would always guess whose name we had drawn — and we always felt that she was totally cheating. As the years came and went, we voted to increase the budget, and as our family grew, we also included my husband in the tradition. About 10 years ago, we stopped doing the old school “put the names in a bowl” method and now use Elfster to be assigned our Secret Santa recipient. Elfster is perfect seeing as we all live in different geographical locations and often don’t celebrate Thanksgiving together anymore. All I needed to do was send a signup link or enter the email address of invitees. It’s fast, free, and easy to use. You can ensure that you never draw yourself or your spouse by setting up draw restrictions. Elfster draws your Secret Santa, handles the notifications, and sends out your wish list that you create.

Currently, as our Secret Santa tradition continues 30 years later, only the adults participate, as the kids are still toddlers. My mom looks forward to including them when they are in elementary school so they, too, can begin giving as well as receiving on Christmas day.

Another benefit of Secret Santa is, as I have matured, I have noticed that my material desires have diminished, so Secret Santa has helped minimize receiving gifts that I don’t want or value. It literally takes the guesswork out of gift buying. Naturally, kids watch what we do, and I am hoping they will also realize that they don’t need a multitude of things on Christmas day. Hopefully, they will be happy with the revelation of their Secret Santa, opening a few presents, and spending the day with loved ones.

Do you and your family ever use the Secret Santa tradition?

Maya is a full-time SAHM who squeezes in part-time work as a Local Childcare Consultant for an au pair agency.  She was born in Ohio but has spent most of her childhood and adult life in Florida. She is André's devoted wife and mother to Audrey, Mason and her fur baby, Egyptian Mau cat named Midnight. Maya earned an A.S. in Culinary Dietetic Technician and a B.A.S in Supervision and Management from Florida State College at Jacksonville. Her professional background is in management and most recently she managed a skilled nursing facility food service department staff of 15.  Maya has a long-time love affair with food and is happiest when she is in the kitchen preparing fresh, homemade meals for her family, utilizing her numerous gadgets and food preparation-specialty items. She also is an aspiring business owner but hasn't figured out what she wants to do 'when she grows up' yet.  In her spare time, she loves painting rocks, coloring using colored pencils,  yoga,  listening to podcasts or audiobooks,  and online shopping. You can follow her at Instagram @5spicechef, and Facebook @5spicechef.


  1. We have been doing this since when our kids were little, so almost for 20 years. Last year when our daughter got married, we did it with just three of us, me, my husband (my husband thought it’s weird to ask my daughter and her husband…) , and our son (unless you have more than 4 people, you instantly knew who is getting for who lol) It was still fun. But this year, when our son called us from Army BCT, he asked us if we can ask our daughter and her husband for secret Santa. So we did. Of course they were exited about it. We are planning on bringing those pieces of paper which has all of our names to our daughter’s house soon for drawing, and will send one to our son in Oklahoma. I know for sure it will make him smile 😊 The gift itself is small, but this tradition makes us so happy and memorable Christmas each year. Especially for our son who will be home for Christmas!

    • Minie,

      Thanks so much for reading! We like to keep the gifts small too. My sister got married this year so I’m excited for her husband to join us again this year. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here