What's the worst Secret Santa gift you've ever had?
PUBLISHED: 21:00 28 November 2019
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Our writer thinks the 'tradition' of giving secret gifts has had its day and needs to be scrapped.
People in the office have already labelled me a Scrooge for not being 100% enthusiastic about our Secret Santa jamboree. That's unfair. Who, last year, was the only person on our bank of desks to have an advent calendar, tinsel round the monitor and fairy-lights plugged into the USB port?
I rest my case.
For the record, I am taking part this December. But: I'd suggest the wider western world should rethink the whole Secret Santa malarkey.
Not that the basic concept is faulty. It's lovely to give gifts (as long as you don't feel coerced, when you really rather wouldn't) and the air of mystery gives it a delicious edge. Who gave you that white chocolate-flavoured body paint from Ann Summers? Was it your jokey best mate (in which case it's OK). But what if it was the boss? (Which would open a can of worms.)
My gripe is about the amount of money people are spending (collectively) that could be better channelled elsewhere - and the mountain of tat that, before Twelfth Night is over, ends up in the bin.
All that plastic…
Not everyone gives something pointless, of course, but the time-starved, imagination-lacking and simply-desperate among us are easily-swayed buyers of trivial temptations.
When I Google "Secret Santa", the three adverts that pop up alongside the findings are for a game where you stack plastic cats, a "happy man" bottle-opener (guess which part of his anatomy removes the bottletop) and a notebook with a rude message on the cover that I wouldn't want my mother-in-law to see.
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The world doesn't need pointless novelties. (And in not buying this trio we'd save nearly £20.)
So, in keeping with the times, here's my manifesto. (The risk of sounding pious and puritan is something I'll just have to live with.)
- Secret Santa can stay.
- But he has to change.
- Stupid gifts, such as hats in the shape of chickens, are banned. Their manufacture and transportation wastes precious resources, and they're instantly one step from landfill. No home needs more useless clutter.
- Give your recipient something inexpensive but satisfying - it is Christmas, after all - such as a decent bar of Fair Trade chocolate.
- Then devote the bulk of the money to a good cause - in your recipient's name. My current chosen organisations are Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, and Beat (the eating disorder charity). You'll have some that are important to you.
- Or give it to the Woodland Trust to help plant a tree; or support your local foodbank, or youth club, or older folk's day centre…
- The important thing is to do good with your money - to feel good about doing good - and to remember that a superficial gift chosen with little thought is neither value for money nor a symbol that carries with it much real festive spirit.
What do you think of Secret Santas? Do you find it hard to opt out if your workplace organises one? What's the worst gift you've ever received? Do write a comment here, or email us.