Five alternatives to Secret Santa

Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, breathe a sigh of relief. Congratulations, you’ve made it through this year’s inaugural stage of winter shopping frenzy. But you’ll need to stay strong as the high street and online retailers ramp up the hard sell in time for Christmas Eve.

Take Secret Santa, for example. Have you ever got something you’ve actually wanted from one? The novelty mugs, bath stuff and funny desk toys all seem like a great way to get in the festive spirit, but they often subtly make their way to the bin by January.

All this gift giving racks up the carbon, too. Factories churn out carbon producing gifts that we don’t want and never use.

But, carbon cutting doesn’t mean you have to become the office Scrooge! Here are a couple of alternative ideas to Secret Santa to try with your colleagues or friendship group this year.

1. Re-gifting

If you’re still a little fond of the Secret Santa tradition, try adding a twist: everything you give has to be something you have already. An unwanted gift, or something you bought long ago that you know someone else would get more use out of now. It’ll save you a bit of cash, and save the planet some carbon.

Or you could try another twist. Each person puts their Secret Santa gift in the middle, and then one by one you pick a gift. You can either pick an unopened present, or steal one off someone who has already picked! It should mean you get something you want – though it depends where you’ve come in the draw!

2. Conspiracy Santa

In this gift-giving bonanza, everyone has a hand in planning a surprise for one person. Set up Whatsapp groups or email threads with everyone except the person you’re planning the gift for. Pool your ideas about their interests and then decide on something special. It’s a great way to get to know people better, and working together should result in a gift they actually want. Then hold the event and share the thread with the recipient – it’s sure to raise a few laughs.

3. A bring and share meal

This one is pretty simple – everyone brings a different dish, and you share a festive feast together. A little bit of organising - assigning savouries and sweets, for example – means you can have all kinds of dishes and gives everyone a chance to show off their cooking (or buying!) skills. If you’re in an office, why not make it a lunch and use it as a chance to leave your desks for an hour to enjoy it all.

4. Secret Friend

This can last the whole festive season and beyond. Everyone picks a name out of the (Santa) hat - but instead of buying them something, you look out for a chance to do something nice for them. It could be anything, like doing their work washing up for a week, or topping up their supply of biscuits and favourite tea, or a post it note saying something nice when they’re getting stressed.

5. Artisan Christmas

If you fancy a challenge, set yourself the task of making something for your recipient from scratch. Whether it’s knitting a pair of gloves to see them through the cold winter months or creating a music playlist for their journey home from work, get your creative juices flowing and see if you can genuinely give them something that’s not on the high street.

Have you taken our Swap Shopping pledge? Instead of money spent on things, choose time better spent with friends and family this festive season.