Why you shouldn’t do Secret Santa, and how to do it anyway

Yoni Muller, Opinion Editor

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Well, you’ve done it again, haven’t you? Every year you tell yourself, “It’ll be different this time,” and every year you’re disappointed. But you did it again, and here you are in the middle of your Secret Santa gift-giving process.

Unfortunately for you, this means you’ve been reminded that Secret Santa sucks. Sorry I’m not sorry. But don’t worry, I’ll hold your hand and guide you through the colossal mistake you’ve gotten yourself into.

My first piece of advice is easy to remember: Don’t do Secret Santa. That $10 or $20 limit would be better spent on cheap booze. If you were smart enough, you would know that, and you wouldn’t be in this mess. But you’re not, which is why you just finished shopping at the Dollar Tree and also why you didn’t get into Yale. To avoid this mistake in the future, try turning the advice into an acronym: DDSS. That’s only two letters technically, so you should be able to get that down.

Still, that doesn’t get you out of your dilemma now. You are Secret Santa-ing, and there’s no backing out. You’ve seen firsthand the trouble of buying a gift. Trying to figure out what your recipient really likes, working with some serious constraints and worrying about seeming incompetent in comparison to everyone else — it’s like your first sexual encounter all over again. I can’t really help you with that, but I can assure you that nobody else feels that way. Only you do.

Even still, the awkwardness of finding a gift pales in comparison to receiving a bad one. Secret Santa gifts are actually a two-pronged problem: They leave you vulnerable to awkward displays of ingratitude, and they leave you with a crappy gift.

Prong One is pretty easy to solve. Try to use your words. Be a mature adult and say how you feel, but be sure to lie. Lie like there’s no tomorrow, no half measures. Hedged lies can be obvious, over-the-top ones fool anyone. Key phrases include “this is literally the greatest gift anyone has ever given,” “your gift has given my life new meaning,” or break down and call your mom.

Of course, such behavior will only avoid any social faux pas in front of your gift giver. When you’re left alone with your gift, it’s Prong Two that proves to be the real challenge.

First, make a quick gift assessment. Did you receive something anyone could get? Consider the following guidelines: An old TV Guide is a yes; a jockstrap from Goodwill is a no.

If you’ve determined you received a good ol’ “generic,” you’re in luck. Surely there must be at least one other person that didn’t get his or her gift yet. Give yours to them and pawn off your misery on people less important than you!

Of course, the critical part of this plan is to get the gift that was designated to them. Find someone who hasn’t yet offloaded their gift and explain there was a mix up. Tell them that the gift they had is intended for you, and your gift is intended for their original recipient. If they are suspicious, which they will be, blame Obama and gift redistribution. Congratulations at your second attempt at a good gift, repeat this as needed to feel mildly satisfied with the life choices that led you here.

Of course, you might not be so fortunate. Someone may have donated to charity in your name, because someone might be a schmuck. These obviously cannot be cunningly regifted. Try modifying them instead! Silk-screening your donation certificate tells people “I care about others, but I care about myself more,” proving that you have your priorities straight.

Ultimately, there’s no reason for a bad gift to get you down. With a bit of cunning, creativity and deception, you can make any Secret Santa scenario work for you in the coming years. After all, you’re doing Secret Santa next year, aren’t you?

Yoni Muller is a Weinberg junior. He can be reached at jonathanmuller2015@u.northwestern.edu

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