It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid, sang Paul Young in the intro to one of the biggest Christmas songs ever. That’s Do They Know It’s Christmas. Not Wombling Merry Christmas. Close, though.
In any case, it’s true - there is no need to be afraid. No need, unless the mere mention of the season’s alliterative arrangement - Secret Santa - sends you into a beard-shredding frenzy of befuddlement. What on earth do you do when you get that name out of the hat that means nothing but woe to you? Or, even worse, that name that means nothing at all?
Worry not, my little elfling. What we have here is a bountifully bulging sackful of seasonal sensations: our festive findings will spread cheer amongst one and all, stretching throughout the snow-draped land. Or at least the six people in your office.
OK, let’s get on with those crackers. The good news is that none of the following presents are - ahem - deer, so, you know, don’t dash away, dash away, dash away all, just yet.
Secret Santa? Secret, what now?
Here comes the background bit. Secret Santa is an ingenious way of ensuring that everyone gets into the Christmas caper without having to spend an arm and a leg. The idea is that everyone’s names go into a hat (a Santa hat is de rigeur here), and people then take turns picking out a name.
That name is then kept secret and is the person for whom the picker must buy a gift. An expense limit is usually set (a fiver or a tenner are common), and there then often follows a whirl of name-swapping as people eagerly set about breaking the vow of omerta that’s supposed to rule over the whole thing.
Names often do get swapped by people who desperately want to ditch someone whose tastes they’re clueless about, but the absolutely crucial factor is that the present purchaser’s identity has to remain utterly mysterious.
On no account are you allowed to know who it was who bought you a Baby Shark pencil case. This is for obvious reasons. Stand-up rows are never welcome in the festive period.
But how did this whole tradition start? Its origins are lost in the mists of time, but lots of sources point to a clandestine philanthropist who roamed the streets of New York from the 1970s until the 2000s, handing out hundreds of thousands of dollars to those he encountered who were in need.
Such anonymous largesse was, of course, hugely laudable and highly unusual in its lack of virtue signalling. It’s often the case that those who do the donating are after a spot of recognition, so how refreshing that this selfless soul was just trying to help, with no payback at all.
And then he went and blew it by revealing his identity to be businessman Larry Dean Stewart, in a big ‘yay me’ moment. Shame, that.
Anyway, whether Mr Stewart is the original Secret Santa or not, it’s now a massively popular method of managing maximum mirth on a budget. And talking of budget, we’ve organised our gift ideas into groups based on how much you’re allowed to spend. Here goes.
Secret Santa gifts up to £5
Perfect for the dog lover and for those who like a novelty ice cube floating in their drink. The venn diagram of the two sets of enthusiasts intersects perfectly right on the LYWUU Dachshund Ice Cube Mold.
The tray is silicon, so no need to wait an age for the cubes to defrost enough for you to remove them. (Do you remember metal ice cube trays? What a fantastically unsuitable substance to make them from! And licking those cubes out of their compartments was strictly verboten, unless you were happy for bits of your tongue to go back into the freezer with the tray. Like, ouch.)
Finally, it has to be noted that this offers the opportunity for plenty of dachshund through the snow type, apparently off-the-cuff wordplay, so, done right, this permits the giver the chance to look quite clever and witty. OK, so it’s not always just about the giving.
Tis the season to be jolly, and nothing gets you jolly like a great glug of gluhwein. Using the spices contained within this Mulled Wine Spices Kit, a humble bottle of red wine will find itself transformed into a wintertime wonder, full of the wonderful flavour of cinnamon, cloves and orange.
This has the advantage of being something that almost everybody will find a use for, as well as smelling as Christmassy as Santa’s pockets.
Gifts under a fiver don’t have to be all novelty. It’s possible to find something quite lovely, like this handmade Infinity Charm Wish Bracelet. It features the symbol for infinity (an 8 on its side, or a knocked-over egg timer) made in Tibetan silver and tied onto the wrist using a black cord.
There’s an accompanying card with a rhyme that says:
“Close your eyes and make a wish
As you tie this bracelet on your wrist
When the bracelet breaks in two
The wish you made might just come true”
Note the clever ‘might just’ phraseology, relieving both the giver and the manufacturer of any guaranteed wish-granting responsibility. This disclaimer aside, it’s a lovely item with a beautiful sentiment, and it all comes wrapped in a pretty organza gift bag.
So, for every gift of genuine quality, a present of mirthful worthlessness is also available. The Million Piece Jigsaw is the perfect example. Goodness, you might be thinking to yourself, whatever size must the box be? And look at that price - that’s value, alright. However, in truth, the present is a small see-through plastic bag containing a handful of sand.
Now, the problem with this kind of funny Secret Santa gift is, of course, that not everyone will find it side-splittingly hilarious to be given a small pouch of builder’s sand, particularly after they spent an age trying to find something fabulously appropriate for their secret giftee.
Nevertheless, some will go the whole hog and stick it in an expensive-looking gift box for maximum disappointment value. The very spirit of Christmas.
On the other hand, if you know somebody who enjoys this kind of wit or who has a hankering for a small quantity of sand (perhaps they are a geologist, or they need to top up their ant farm), then this is pretty much perfect.
Tunes have never been so sweet as they are with this Chocolate Cassette Tape. Made from silky smooth Belgian chocolate and wrapped to look authentically like a cassette, this gift will be music to the tastebuds of any chocoholic.
A very convincing-looking cassette wrapper is used, drawn randomly from a number, including a Maxell C-90 and an Agfa 60. Ahhh… those were the days. A great little gift, certain to appeal to music fans of a certain age. Will they like it? I should coco!
From cocoa beans to baked beans. We have here a singularly safe bet, in the shape of a… er.. safe. Actually, it’s not. It’s in the shape of an ordinary tin of Heinz beans, but this conceals its real purpose, which is not to provide you with fibre, protein and a great way to stain your best white shirt. No, it’s to keep your money and small valuables safe from prying eyes and hands.
The Sterling SafeCan is ingenious. It’s licensed by Heinz, so looks entirely authentic, but it does exactly what it doesn’t say on the tin. Open the bottom to reveal a secret compartment in which to keep your precious knick knacks. Of course, you need to be sure that the person you give this to isn’t a baked bean obsessive. Disappointment is bound to ensue.
Yes, we’re back to chocolate. But that’s the thing with Christmas. Just like family rows, stupid jumpers, and The Great Escape (actually, that’s a bit of a cliche - The Great Escape is never among the films on at Christmas. Would that it were), chocolate is never too far away. Or, it certainly shouldn’t be in any case.
This Lindt Lindor Milk Chocolate Advent Calendar, packed with 24 mini Lindor chocs will put a big chocolatey smile on any chocoholic’s face, all the way through December.
This one’s got novelty written all over it, but at least it gives the recipient some fantastically festive clobber to wear to any and all of the seasonal do’s they’re invited to. Smiffy’s Christmas Tree Hat features all the fun of a full-size tree, complete with a star and baubles and all wrapped up with tinsel galore.
It’s impossible to think how you would put anything more Christmassy on your head, unless you were to wear antlers. Ooh - you can get these too, all made from balloons.
Secret Santa gifts between £5 and £10
Sometimes, in a world of Christmas gifts that are just what the recipient doesn’t want, it pays to be a bit more Route One in your gift buying. This is a perfect example. Do you want the best Secret Santa alcohol gift for somebody who likes a bit of fizz? It’s this - La Gioiosa Prosecco. Job done. On with the party.
2. Bath bombs
For fizz-lovers of an altogether different persuasion, try these Luxury Bath Bombs from Eco-Lux Essentials. There are four different essential oil varieties (eucalyptus, lavender, ocean and rose), and the box contains two of each, so, as mathematicians will testify, that’s eight in total.
They’re objects of beauty - like jewels, no less - and they fizz fabulously, turning bathtime into something truly special. They also contain sea salt crystals for extra skincare, and are 100% vegan.
Everybody knows that Marks and Spencer does some lovely gifts. There are lots of suitable things to choose from, and we were very tempted by their range of beanie hats - super-handy during the colder months and available in a gorgeous range of colours. However, our vote has to go to their Glitter Light Up Hanging Alphabet Decoration.
You choose the letter you want (the person’s initial would be a good bet), and you get a gorgeous letter that is swirled in multicoloured glitter and LED battery-powered lights. If that doesn’t look good on their tree, then they need to get a better tree.
Wand-er what to give somebody who just loves everything about the myopic magician, Hogwarts and all? What about a ShopSharks Personalised Pillowcase? It features a Potter (Harry, not Brian) style sorcerer’s hat, underneath which, in authentic font, is emblazoned the name of the lucky giftee. As personalised gifts go, this one’s wizard!
It’s a standard size and is made from cotton-feel 100% polyester. Note - pillow not included. They’ll just have to magic one up.
Talking of Potter, in among the bestsellers and the usually cited faves of children’s literature, is this undiscovered gem. It’s the exquisitely illustrated story of a little dog who tries his very best to overcome a myriad misunderstandings and sets about making his situation ever worse with one colossal blunder after another.
Does it end well? That would be telling, but, well, OK, yes, it does.
Teej! Toto Gets it Wrong is written to wise up children about the possibilities of wordplay, but more than anything, it’s a very involving and funny little story about bouncing back from failure, the importance of friendship and the value of a good cauliflower cheese. What does Teej mean? You’ll have to read it to find out.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… people still got thirsty. This is the perfect pangalactic quantum quencher: the Puckator Original Stormtrooper Stainless Steel Water Bottle. It’s clad in Vader black, with four stormtroopers on the side, one wearing a Bah - humbug hat, and another in a Christmas jumper and antlers.
Death Star of Wonder, this is a great present. It has a bit of cheek in it, which some say Star Wars lost a little of with the advent of Disney. And it’s not astronomical, either.
7. Tote bag
OK, a bag’s not everybody’s idea of the perfect gift, but this Corduroy Tote Bag from Magosis is a real stunner, and a great price too. It’s great for work colleagues and for school, or for holidays or for just about any other activity. It looks amazing and comes in a range of seven gorgeous colours.
And, for the perfect gift set, why not pop something extra inside it? Perhaps a million-piece jigsaw puzzle? OK, perhaps not. Maybe a little stocking filler like this Elfin Around puzzle book.
8. Make up bag
Cosmetic products don’t have to be just skin-deep. This Velvet & Brocade Make-Up Bag is anything but shallow, being recycled from offcuts from a fabric factory. That’s not to say it’s not a feast for the eyes - the sumptuous and shiny red metallic finish is glorious to behold, and, being brocade, is a veritable stalwart, giving long-lived performance in bathroom after bathroom.
Lined with recycled pink fabric, this is an eye-catching and conversation-starting piece that will be a real highlight in your make up kit.
Secret Santa gifts over £10
Often, the best Secret Santa gifts are the kinds that you use everyday, the kind of homeware that, every time you see it or put it into action, you’re reminded of the giver. Except you won’t know who the giver is, of course. Unless it’s Larry Dean Stewart.
Anyway, this is the perfect example. The Wax Lyrical Fired Earth Ceramic Diffuser is a thing of beauty that will fill your home with the delightful fragrance of cedar and vanilla. It’s a firm favourite among the scent set, transforming ambiences from London to Londonderry with its rich and luxurious aroma.
One of the mistakes people make at Christmastime is to overdo it on the seasonally-themed gifts. A reindeer dressing gown is going to be quietly put away once the big day’s over, and those crimplene Santa pants have no business being seen once Boxing Day is here (or at all).
This is why The Cornish Company’s Cream Tea for Two Hamper is just the ticket for those suffering from a little too much Yule. It’s a Cornish cream tea - so, tea, biscuits, scones, jam and, of course, gorgeous clotted cream - all in a fab little box of heaven.
Because it’s got clotted cream in it, it’s not going to want to sit around in Santa’s sack for an age, so its giving will take some orchestration, but it’ll be worth it. It’s a summer-infused sensation and just what people will be wanting a piece of in the depths of winter.
What do you get for the person who has everything, including more than their fair share of stress? This blissful little box full of solutions for a happy life, that’s what.
The Mindful Letterbox Gift, packed full of planet-friendly (and person-extremely-friendly) scented products, such as soy candles and wax melts, to de-stress the stressiest of stressees. Or you can select a collection that’s for energising (perhaps a great hint for a colleague who likes to take it a little too easy!)
OK, so at last, we come to the refuge of the clueless, the gift card. It’s the apotheosis of the ‘didn’t have the foggiest what you’d like’ approach to gift-buying.
However, it does have the undeniable advantage of giving the recipient the chance to get themselves a nice t-shirt, a card game, a gadget, a keepsake or whatever it is they’d like, rather than being stuck with some novelty gift nightmare they’ll be compelled to re-gift at the earliest opportunity.
An Amazon gift card is, of course, also splendid as a birthday gift, baby gift, wedding gift…It really is the gift that just doesn’t know how to stop giving.
Secret Santa in style
So, you have a seasonal smorgasbord that St Nick himself would be too happy to dish up. Something for everybody, from the colleague of your dreams to the person you don’t know from Adam or Eve. Christmas has to be for everybody, or it’s just not Christmas. Its message is one of inclusivity, and we’ve tried to include everybody here.
Of course, there will always be the person for whom it’s downright impossible to buy the perfect Secret Santa gift. But don’t worry. The whole point of Secret Santa is that it can be a bit of a laugh. Besides, your identity’s secret so you can get away with anything...