Winter break is almost here. That means that it is time for my work inboxes to become inundated with invitations and requests to do tasks that are only loosely related to my job. Usually these are things like holiday parties or happy hours. Both of which fall into the category of things I don’t mind doing but don’t have the time for anymore with a baby at home. There is one holiday main stay that I absolutely cannot stand: Secret Santa.
I hate Secret Santa. Always have. It is the one part of Christmas that the Grinch can take back. I don’t feel like I am the only one who feels this way either.
Just for the record I am not a scrooge. I understand why some people like it and the joy of giving and what not. But there are a number of aspects that make Secret Santa a miserable experience for some.
The first problem is that Secret Santa is not truly optional. It is technically of course because no one can make you buy something for someone else but in many situations it is more of an opt-out instead of opt-in. Opting out feels incredibly awkward especially if everyone knows you are doing it. When they bring the little Santa hat around and you decline to draw a name like everyone else, you feel pressure to join. This is particularly the case if there is an odd number.
People are busy enough around the holidays without adding the additional errand of buying gifts for people at work. Then because it is supposed to be a secret, you can’t just give it to them. You have to tiptoe around and wait till they leave their desk or ask someone else to give it to them. Who has time for this?
The unequal exchange.
I only ever begrudgingly did Secret Santa, but I always made sure I did a good job because its not fair to my person if I don’t. Other Secret Santas do not feel this way. Some Santas are so bad that it makes you not want to participate at all. I had one that forgot two out of the five days we did it. I had another that gave me a snack from the lunchroom that I could have easily grabbed myself. When you put effort into your gift giving and that isn’t reciprocated it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The assumption that you are doing for someone else what someone will do for you is the underlying assumption of the tradition. Instead, it feels like every other week of the year where someone is not pulling their own weight. There isn’t a non-awkward way to correct this wrong either. There is no Secret Santa police making sure someone does it right.
The school environment.
Secret Santa at school is worse than most places because many schools have a lot of employees and if your Secret Santa pool is too big you may not even know your giver or receiver. Several years I have done it I had barely even crossed paths with the person. That not only makes it hard to buy gifts but also anti-climactic when you eventually find out who it is. Also, a lot of teachers like to be cute and get kids involved. They send kids to your room and then kids want to do their own Secret Santa. If kids are allowed to do this, the students and their parents get mad when the other person doesn’t get them anything as if it is some activity I sanctioned. Some people might like that aspect, but I am not some people and I find it annoying.
My aversion truly is not about the money, but I don’t want to spend the money either especially since I now am a parent.
There is kind of an implicit assumption with these work traditions that everyone celebrates Christmas and calling it Secret “Snowflake” doesn’t change that.
No matter what you call it. Secret Santa is an unnecessary inconvenience. I guess it might be a perfectly fine holiday activity since a lot of people like it. I suppose I just need to get used to it, but I will always find it annoying as a workplace tradition.