Gift giving games: Secret Santa vs. White Elephant

Illustration by Ainsley Davis

Secret Santa is when members of a group receive random assignments to give a gift to. In some cases players make a small list of ideas for what to get them. The identity of the gift giver remains anonymous until the receiver opens the gift.

White Elephant has players put an unmarked wrapped gift in a designated area. A number is drawn, and a gift is chosen from the area based off of the number they drew. Whoever is first  opens a present, and the person who is next can either steal that gift from the first person or take a new present. A gift can be stolen up to three times until it cannot be stolen anymore; the game ends when the last gift is chosen.

Secret Santa

By Oliver Van Aken

It’s that time of the year again when friends and family gather around and reconnect by partaking in holiday festivities. People enjoy the holidays by watching classic movies or decorating their homes, but for most, it always includes presents. Secret Santa and White Elephant are the two most popular holiday exchange games that many enjoy every year, but Secret Santa is superior.

Secret Santa not only brings materialistic joy, but a personal connection develops between the gift giver and the recipient. You have to take time out of your day to find the perfect gift, so you must also learn what their likes and dislikes are. It’s a great opportunity to get to know someone better and enhance your friendship. That personal connection is non existant in White Elephant because you don’t learn any new information about other people playing the game. Secret Santa brings people closer together.

The gifts you receive from White Elephant are of a lower quality compared to Secret Santa. Instead of getting a gift tailored to what you like, people usually just pick up gift cards or dollar store presents. In the end gift giving, an act of spirit and happiness, is turned into a selfish fight to steal the present you want.

Overall, the holidays are supposed to be filled with joy, laughter and spirit. If you’re looking for a way to incorporate these sentimental elements into your family or friend group’s list of traditions, the best way is by giving to others, which is the true meaning of Secret Santa.



White Elephant

By Valerie Perez

Spreading joy is accomplished through acts of giving and receiving. Over time though, people have invented more exciting ways to exchange gifts than just handing them over, and White Elephant is the best way to exchange presents and holiday spirit.

As the days count down to the holidays, finding the perfect gift is not as easy as it used to be as everybody orders exactly what they want online anyway. In Secret Santa, there’s so much pressure to pick the “perfect” gift for one person, but everyone has different interests and needs, making it difficult to choose. However, for White Elephant, finding a gift for someone is no longer a hassle; a simple and functional gift works for anyone. No need to stress over what kind of extravagant gift you can get when a small, universal offering works for all. Since everybody has different preferences, it’s best to keep it simple with a gift anyone can appreciate like a game or gift card.

Presents fill the room, and a variety of choices become available. It’s anyone’s game from there. Picking a gift is rule number one, and it’s all up to you to choose which one you want. As more gifts are introduced, some of them may not be as appealing to you as others. With White Elephant, you have the freedom to pick whichever gift fits you best. Someone else took the perfume you’ve been wanting all winter? No problem, snatch the gift from out of their hands and into yours.

During the game, the anxious feeling between opening each present grows as your turn arrives. The excitement increases each time someone unwraps a gift because that could soon be yours after you steal it. The sad feeling in Secret Santa happens after you open your one and only gift, and it turns out to have nothing to do with your likes at all, and then there is nothing left to be excited for. You are left with a feeling of disbelief as the person next to you has the gift you’ve been wanting for the longest time. On the other hand, if the game was White Elephant, you could have stolen it and had your happily ever after with the gift of your choice.