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How to take your Secret Santa game to the next level

These tricks will help make sure everyone (including you!) gets what they want out of this year’s gift exchange.

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The basic rules for a successful Secret Santa — anonymous gift giving among friends, family and co-workers — are similar to the rules of a good dinner party: avoid anything to do with sex (‘natch) and politics (this is not the time to offload Trump memorabilia, no matter how ironic). Add to that re-gifting. It’s plain tacky. And booze can be tricky, too, if you don’t know the person well.

Fortunately, there’s an app for that. Elfster is the largest, most popular online Secret Santa database. It allows groups of friends to sign up a group, set a budget, and, if desired, pick a theme. Then each group member creates two lists: one of the things she craves and covets, another of the stuff she would instantly get rid of on Kijiji. Elfster even takes care of the admin by pairing people based on pre-filled-out personality questionnaires.


Related: Why you should buy everyone the same present


SecretSanta.com is another option, with the benefit that it can organize Yankee Swaps and White Elephant exchanges — fancy ways of saying that recipients have the opportunity of trading or stealing the gifts of others until everyone has something they want.

For the tech-averse who want a completely different approach, reinventing the whole process is a possibility. The Victorian Cobweb Christmas Party Game, for example, is a throwback to a simpler time, when the point of the holidays was spending time together, not self-censoring disappointment after opening a fugly sweater that doesn’t fit. Friends wonder through a simple, yarn-made maze to find a prize, usually something edible. It’s hard to disappoint when the gift is something tasty.

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