Tis The Season For Secret Santa

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While the workload grows heavier with homework and tests as the countdown to winter break continues, many Townsend Harris High School students scramble to finish the beloved gift exchange of the season, Secret Santa. 

Secret Santa is a Christmas tradition that people of all ages can participate in. The rules are fairly simple: one gives a gift, one receives a gift. More specifically, a group of participants write down their names on folded pieces of paper to randomly assign a Secret Santa for each person. Each person then randomly chooses one name and gives a gift to the person they received on the folded piece of paper during the gift exchange. The gift exchange occurs on a selected date that is normally a few days before Christmas. The game should be anonymous so that no one would know who their Secret Santa is until the gift exchange. 

Participating in this game with friends has been a tradition in THHS for years. Senior Isabelle Borgstedt said that she’s done it “three times, all with the track team,” and that she would “love for it to continue to be a special event for future generations of trackies.” The tradition is a great way to bond with others and make new memories. “My favorite [part] is trying to figure out who got your gift because then you’d get to thank them for doing something so wonderful for you,” said freshman Lelaina Madrazo. 

Though the original Secret Santa method is fun and nostalgic, selecting a name without receiving one’s own name can be a challenge. Sophomore Abby Schwartz said, “Oftentimes when [using written] names, especially in a large group, one person will pick themselves and then you have to restart.” Due to this problem, more efficientmethods to assign names have been created such as online Secret Santa generators. Many Harrisites turned to using online Secret Santa generators such as Elfster.

The virtual age has brought some favorable changes when it comes to secrecy for the gift exchange. Elfster allows organizers to create a webpage for their own gift exchanges. It asks the organizer to name the exchange, sign up deadline, and a gift exchange date. It also allows one to set a budget for the gifts. It then gives the individual a link to a webpage with all the information about their exchange, which they can share with anyone who wants to sign up. Once the deadline to sign up passes, the website will randomly assign everyone a different person to buy a gift for. “The website in general is really well designed and the layout is super cute and… festive,” said Isabelle. 

Another useful feature of the website is that it allows participants to set up wish lists. The user can browse through a very wide range of potential gifts to add to their own wish list so that their Secret Santa can have a better idea of what to buy. If one can’t find anything they like when browsing through the suggested items, they also have the option to attach links, text, and images of what they want. 

Students have mixed feelings about whether they prefer the traditional or virtual method for Secret Santa, but many find that organizers like Elfster are more convenient. “Elfster is a more reliable way to draw names than folded paper because a third party draws the names. There’s a smaller chance of others finding out because the names aren’t physically drawn,” said junior Anusha Ramjanam. “Also, the wish lists are really helpful in finding a gift.” 

Secret Santa is an honored holiday tradition, especially in THHS. Sophomore Sadie Bauer said that Secret Santa is a “fun way to celebrate the holidays with my friends and show them how much I care.” The thrill of the secrecy and the spreading of love through gifts makes it an event that is loved by many Harrisites. 

Art by Amy Jiang

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