It’s that time of the year, folks. These are the apps and sites you should check out if you’re looking to host a Secret Santa, join a community’s gift exchange, or have a whole new spin on the annual tradition.
Secret Santa, in case you didn’t know, is an anonymous gift exchange. People are randomly matched with a “Santa” who will buy them a cool Christmas gift. And the Santa’s identity is kept secret till the gift is given (and sometimes afterwards too).
Naturally, now that everyone has phones, apps, and the internet, technology makes it easier to do Secret Santa. And if you’re not part of one, you can join online communities to get in on the tradition.
Not Santa (Web): Simplest Secret Santa Match Generator
No one needs to draw names out of a hat anymore. Technology makes it easier to set up the matches so that you don’t have to.
Not Santa is a remarkably simple web app that also works great on mobile screens. Give your Secret Santa group a name, add your name, and then add the names of all the other participants. There doesn’t seem to be any limit on how many people you can add.
Once you’ve filled up the list, click Make It Happen to generate the randomized matches. Share the link with all the participants so they can see who their matches are.
Not Santa works on an honor system. If anyone wanted to, they could click on each person’s name and find out who got matched with whom. But do that and the real Santa is going to drop a lump of coal in your stockings.
Simple Secret Santa Generator (Web, Android, iOS): Matches and Wishlists
For the next level of Secret Santa hosting, try Simple Secret Santa Generator (SSSG). There isn’t any honor system in this one. Only the Santa will know who they have to get a gift for.
You can use it online or with the mobile apps. Create a group, and add the names and email addresses of participants. You can also generate a link so that participants can sign up to the group, rather than you adding them. Once the list is ready, generate the Secret Santa match-ups.
It’s a good idea to also write other details in the description, like the gift budget and when you will exchange them. To make the gift-giving a little easier, SSSG lets you add a wishlist of items you’d like.
The only flaw with SSSG is that it is free for up to five users only. After that, you need to pay to unlock more users.
Secret Santa Team (Web): For Slack and Discord
Slack and Discord are two of the most popular chat apps for offices, teams, and shared-interest groups today. If you’re an administrator in one such group, you can set up Secret Santa in a jiffy.
Click the button for your preferred chat app and this Santa bot will be ready to spread the cheer. Add the people who want to participate in the exchange. And draft a custom message that will be sent out to all participants, along with their match. As usual, include rules like the budget.
Note that the bot matches people randomly. In case you are a remote, distributed team, the bot doesn’t care about which country you are in.
Elfster (Web, Android, iOS): The Most Powerful Secret Santa Tool
Elfster really takes its Secret Santa business seriously. This is a powerful tool for anyone who wants to exert plenty of control over the process, which might be necessary when you’re dealing with a whole office.
It’s best to use the web app and not the mobile apps for Elfster. Through a series of steps, you will set the gift exchange rules (budget, reveal time, reveal place, sign-up deadline, and so on). You can invite people from your Gmail address book, which is a tremendous help, or you can generate a link that people can visit and register for.
Elfster adds a bit of a social media angle to it. Within your created event, you get a “wall” where all participants of the Secret Santa can talk to each other.
The app also lets a Secret Santa talk to their recipient anonymously. It’s a nice way to find out more about someone so you can get them the perfect gift. And yes, you can set up wishlists too.
Conspiracy Santa (Web): A Fun New Take On Secret Santa
The team at Zapier have a slightly different version of Secret Santa, and have made a tool where you can play it their way too. The idea here is to not match one person with one Santa. Instead, a whole team comes together to get a gift for each individual.
Here’s how it works. Let’s say there is a team of five people, named A, B, C, D, and E. E’s gift is decided in an email exchange between A, B, C, and D. Similarly, A’s gift is decided in an email exchange between B, C, D, and E. Each person gets a gift not from one Secret Santa, but a collective effort by the whole rest of the team.
To facilitate this, Zapier released the Conspiracy Santa tool. Add a name and an email address for each person who is part of the Conspiracy Santa. Once everyone is added, group emails will be sent out to discuss each person’s gift to everyone but that person. Start replying, decide a gift, and have a great holiday!
Give, And Give More
Secret Santa is an amazing way to form new bonds or strengthen old ones, without the pressure of looking like a fool with what you give someone. Hopefully, these apps make it a stress-free and enjoyable experience for everyone.
But don’t forget, the holiday season isn’t just about giving to someone you love. It’s about giving. If you’re buying gifts for loved ones, also consider Christmas charities that offer online help for low income families.
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