by Susanne Kathol, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

A Secret Santa exchange is a great way to celebrate the holidays, gift and enjoy with others, and take the pressure off of buying a gift for each individual person. However, a successful Secret Santa exchange requires planning and organization--here's how to get started:

Will it Work?
Before you do anything, it's a good idea to "float" the idea of a Secret Santa/gift exchange with your Human Resources department (just to make sure it's OK to organize at work) and your coworkers to make sure it's something that people will be excited about. "Sell" the idea by explaining it will be a fun way for everyone to get together and celebrate and takes the pressure off gifting to everyone in the office. And instead of having impromptu gift exchanges throughout the holiday season, this is a great way to organize it into one preplanned event.

Get Out Your Calendar
It's important to plan ahead and give people enough time to get gifts together, and you'll have to decide when the exchange will take place. Is there a normal meeting time that can be used for the exchange? Remember, lots of people take vacation right before the holidays, so make sure you select a time that works for all. It's also fun to plan snacks or refreshments during the exchange.

Pick a Theme and State the Rules
It's always fun to have a "theme" for your Secret Santa. Here are some examples: all things handmade, anything for the kitchen, books, calendars, movies, etc. This gives people a better idea of where to get started when they are selecting a gift. You can either assign Secret Santas (meaning someone has a name of someone else to gift for) or you can do a "grab bag" auction, where everyone just brings a gift for the exchange.

Assign Secret Santas
If you choose to assign Secret Santas, it's best to put everyone's name on a piece of paper and place them in hat. Then have everyone select a name (if they select their own name, put it back and select another). Have everyone mark who their gift is for, but not who it is from. It's fun to have the person guess who their Secret Santa is after opening their gift.

Grab Bag Auction
In the grab bag auction everyone brings in their gifts and you number them. Next, place numbers in a bag and let everyone choose a number. The first person picks their gift. The second person gets to either take what person #1 chose, or pick something else from the pile. This continues until everyone has had a chance to choose. So if you have 25 people playing, person #25 has his choice of every gift.

Make sure everyone knows this is how the department or office will be celebrating, so there are no other gift expectations beyond the exchange. It's important to set a spending limit and ask everyone to stick to it. It's not fun if you get a $25 scarf while the person next to you is hugging their new 42" Plasma TV.

Enjoy!

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