Point-Counterpoint: Secret Santa v.s. White Elephant
December 21, 2021
With Christmas just around the corner, many students are planning Christmas parties with their friends to show their appreciation during the festive season. Christmas parties are great for several reasons: there’s a ton of holiday food and songs, but most importantly, holiday party games. Many parties resort to one of the two activities as a great way to ensure that everyone leaves with a gift. But is Secret Santa the superior gift-giving game or is White Elephant the preferable activity?
The best Christmas activity is no secret
Only real fans of the Christmas season know Secret Santa rules over White Elephant. Sure, White Elephant is engaging and interactive, but isn’t it even more exciting when you read the slip of paper determining who you’re shopping for? On top of that, doesn’t the game become personal and meaningful when you begin thinking about what might make your person’s face light up with joy because of the gift you spent time looking for? Ladies and gentlemen I present to you, the most popular and best gift-giving game, Secret Santa.
Secret Santa is a fun and thoughtful way to buy gifts for your friends and family and surprise them all at the same time. The essence of the game lies within the name Secret Santa; the whole objective is to find a gift for your person without them knowing it was from you. Participants in the game pick one person by random from either a bowl of names jumbled in, or however else the group decides to randomize choosing.
From then on, once everyone has an assigned person, the secret starts.
Now participants head to shop for their person, hoping to find something their person would fall head over heels for. As the time ticks down, you may wonder who picked your name out of chance and if it’s something you’ll love or possibly hate. But hey, that’s the beauty of the game: unaware of what you’ll receive or who it’s from.
Finally, the day to open gifts arrives and everyone places their gift in one area, names of the recipients waiting patiently on a slip of paper attached to their mystery gift. The best part of Secret Santa comes down to this: how will you know who bought you the ugly Christmas sweater or the cute makeup collection? Your eyes look up at the surrounding faces, some quietly snickering, others straight faced or darting their eyes around the room, the possibilities are endless.
But, with White Elephant, you aren’t able to safely assume a gift once it’s in your hands as long as another player wants it too. You might’ve received a gift you’ve been wanting for ages and see that it truly is the best gift just to have it stolen from you in the blink of an eye. Whereas in Secret Santa, your gift could be the best one yet, and there’s nothing anyone else can do about it. But, that’s only a small piece of what makes Secret Santa so spectacular.
Secret Santa allows you to learn more about the person you’re shopping for, whether it’s a friend, family, co-worker, etc. And in doing so, not only have you figured out the perfect gift, but you’ve learned what their favorite activities are, what types of movies they love, their favorite restaurants, and the list goes on. In other words, you get to learn more about someone which can spark a new relationship.
Speaking from personal experience, White Elephant is never an equal playing ground. Many players in White Elephant usually enter in gag gifts, but there’s always individuals who goes above and beyond in their entry. In fact, there’s always that one person from White Elephant who begins to feel bitter and disheartened (myself included) because they received a cheap, inexpensive gift compared to others. Yes, the game becomes entertaining and full of emotion because of its competitive and unrestrained spirit, but that can leave people feeling either joyful or down in the dumps.
On the other hand, in Secret Santa when you open your gift and find a customized item pertaining to you alone, the feeling is inexpressible. Even if the gift may be something as small as a pair of Christmas socks, you can’t help but feel a bit of gratitude towards your Secret Santa especially once you’ve spotted the correct person.
Overall, both games are enjoyable and pleasing to be wrapped up in during the Christmas season. However, Secret Santa is the best way to spend the holidays; it’s a fun-loving and lively environment that encourages friends and family to be just as thoughtful as they are having fun.
The elephant in the room
Stealing, scheming and manipulation all wrapped up in a cute Christmas game? Count me in. White Elephant is all about utilizing your brains and using a bit of luck to optimize your chances of landing a great Christmas gift. This Christmas game brings the competition alongside the festive Christmas cheer, and it creates a fun and cutthroat atmosphere at the party.
If you’re still reading this, and you still have absolutely no idea what a White Elephant Gift Exchange is, it’s a fun Christmas game where the objective is to leave the party with the best Christmas gift.
Before the party commences, the host sets a price range and requires every player to bring a wrapped gift within that price range. When everyone arrives with their gifts, they place them in the center of the room where everyone can analyze the size, shape and material of the wrapping paper. At the start of the game, every player draws a number from a bucket to determine the order they will go in. That’s where the hint of luck kicks in. Your order determines what gifts you can land for this competition. Whoever is first gets the first selection of the presents. They can choose whatever wrapping paper or Christmas bag they find to be the most appealing, and once they decide on a gift, they have to open the gift for everyone to see.
Remember when I mentioned stealing? Well, this is where the real fun of the game begins.
When it’s the next person’s turn to draw a gift, they have an alternative option: they can choose from the pile of wrapped gifts, or they can steal a previous player’s present. If your gift is stolen, you can either steal someone else’s gift or draw a new gift from the present pile. Gifts can only be stolen once per round, so you can’t steal something back until the next turn. Also, after three steals, the gift becomes “locked,” meaning that it cannot be stolen anymore.
Once everyone goes, the first player is allowed to steal whatever gift isn’t locked or keep their gift. While there are many variations to this traditional Christmas activity, these are the most official rules of the game.
White Elephant trumps Secret Santa in all aspects. Before the game begins, you don’t need to spend hours on end trying to find your person a personalized gift that you’re hoping they’ll like. Instead, you can simply purchase a universal gift that most people will enjoy. And if the person who ends up with your gift doesn’t enjoy it in White Elephant, you don’t have to hold onto the guilt of picking out a bad present. Because at the end of the day, you don’t get to decide who your gift goes to. I’ve had to sit through countless Secret Santa games where the players plastered on fake smiles, pretending they liked the gift they received, and White Elephant is the perfect solution for the awkward “thank you’s.”
White Elephant is also work-friendly and a safer option than Secret Santa. The main issue people typically face when participating in Secret Santa is that someone always receives a person they don’t really know. The most awkward thing about Secret Santa is trying to find out a co-worker or a classmate’s likes and dislikes without giving it away. On top of that, this ultimately leads to other people giving away who they have, which takes away from the selling point of Secret Santa: the element of surprise. With White Elephant, it stirs healthy competition, and it’s a better way to get to know your colleagues through the strategies they use and the gifts they want the most in the game.
While both of the Christmas games are fun and are a great way to ensure everyone receives a gift at the end of the party, White Elephant is ultimately a better activity since Christmas is better spent bonding with the ones you love rather than the gifts you receive.