Secret Santa Ideas Without Gifts


Secret Santa is a gift exchange often used in business offices in lieu of purchasing a gift for every person. Names of participants are placed in a hat and each person draws a name as their gift recipient. Instead of giving gifts for a "secret Santa" activity, consider other free or low-cost options that benefit everyone. Adapt the activities for use in organizations and large families.

Trim the Tree

  • Purchase a live or faux Christmas tree and invite participants to bring one ornament to decorate the tree. The Christmas tree may adorn the lobby or foyer during the month of December until the week before the holiday, allowing participants time to choose an ornament. A few days before Christmas, the tree and its decorations may be donated to a homeless or battered women's shelter. Another option is to extend the tree to a family with children who cannot afford one. The group poses as a secret Santa, as opposed to giving each other gifts.

Service Coupons

  • With company permission, encourage coworkers to devise secret service coupons that promise their help with company activities such as fundraisers for charities, making the break room coffee, bringing in treats for a pot luck lunch or donating time to alleviate someone for an extra break on a rough day. The secret Santa name drawing can be used to begin the activity, but instead of tangible gifts, coworkers are assigned specific tasks that benefit the group morale.

Christmas Treats

  • Rearrange the tradition of leaving cookies for Santa and allow participants to leave treats for others. Organize a sign-up sheet and allow participants to write only the name of the treat they'd like to bring in for others to enjoy. They do not write their names as that gives away the "secret Santa" anonymity. The sign-up avoids repeats of the same items being shared in the spirit of the holiday. The baked treats can be individually wrapped or arranged as a treat platter in lieu of giving gifts to one another.

Christmas Raffle

  • Warm disadvantaged youth in the area with a Christmas raffle. Bring support to those less fortunate, while creating a buzz in the office. Each person who brings in one children's coat for donation to a charity receives one raffle ticket to win a prize such as a gift basket, a paid day off work or a weekend getaway for two to a bed-and-breakfast. Discuss the intent with the company's administration to request a business donation for the purchase of the prize.

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