Updated: February 13, 2024

20 Unique Secret Santa Games to Play at Office Parties

You found our list of the best Secret Santa games.

Secret Santa games are fun-filled gift-exchange activities to play during present swaps. Colleagues get to exchange gifts anonymously. For example, games like Secret Santa Dice and Treasure Hunt are popular versions of this concept. The purpose of these games is to encourage camaraderie. Participants will foster a positive atmosphere and close-knit relationships. These games are also known as “Secret Santa activities,” “Secret Santa themes,” and “gift swap games.”

These Secret Santa games are examples of Christmas games and similar to virtual Secret Santa events, office gift exchange ideas, and online White Elephant exchanges.


This list includes:

  • best Secret Santa games
  • Christmas exchange games
  • Christmas party games
  • creative Secret Santa games
  • exciting Secret Santa games
  • festive secret Santa activities

So, here is the list!

List of Secret Santa games

From Name Drawing to Guess Who, this list of games will shake up your classic Secret Santa gift exchanges.

1. Secret Santa Dice

Secret Santa Dice adds a unique twist to traditional Secret Santa gift exchanges. Each participant rolls a set of dice. Depending on the outcome, players either choose a wrapped gift from the pile or steal a gift from another player. If workers roll a one through three, then they can open a wrapped present. If players roll a four through six, then they steal from another player. When players lose their initial gift, they roll the dice to get a new one.

This element of chance brings excitement and anticipation to the game. Secret Santa Dice also encourages interaction and engagement among coworkers. Further, this game eliminates the stress of finding the perfect gift for a colleague who you do not know well.

2. Swap Party

A Swap Party is an exciting twist to the traditional Secret Santa game. Instead of purchasing gifts, participants exchange items they no longer need or want. To organize this party, set rules ahead of time for what folks can bring in. For instance, participants should offer items that are good quality and might be useful to a colleague.

This game adds an element of surprise and anticipation to gift giving. Plus, this exercise promotes sustainability by reducing waste. This game is a fun and eco-friendly way to celebrate the holiday season!

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3. Hot Potato Variant

You can modify the classic Hot Potato game to add a Secret Santa twist! To play this game, have each participant buy and wrap a gift before the party. Hosts will create a list of fun holiday songs to play. Participants will gather in a circle and grab a gift. Hosts will play a song, and players will pass the gift, or hot potato, around. When the music stops, the participant holding the gift gets to keep it. The gameplay continues until each participant gets a present. After the whole team gets a gift, folks can open their presents!

This game adds excitement to the usual gift exchange. Christmas party games like Hot Potato can make the office celebration more lively as folks try to get the presents they want.

4. Treasure Hunt

A fun Secret Santa game to consider for your office is a Treasure Hunt. This game adds an element of adventure and excitement to the gift-giving experience. To play this game, assign Secret Santa partners. Folks will buy gifts for their recipients. Before the holiday party, ask gift givers to hide their presents around the office. Then, colleagues can write a series of clues that lead recipients to their gifts. When the party starts, players can go on personalized scavenger hunts to find their presents!

This exchange is one of the most exciting Secret Santa games that adds another level of fun to gift giving. Partygoers will need to use their creativity to hide presents and write clues. Gift recipients will use their deduction and critical-thinking skills to find their presents. Players will have fun deciphering clues and exploring the office.

Check out more treasure hunt ideas.

5. Trading Places

Trading Places is a competitive way to share gifts with your coworkers! During this event, each participant brings a wrapped gift. Then, folks draw numbers to determine the order of choosing presents. As the game progresses, partygoers can choose an unopened gift or steal one from their colleagues. If a player has their gift stolen, then they have to open a new one.

When playing Trading Places, it is a good idea to set some rules up ahead of time. For instance, you could tell players they can only steal a present three times. This game adds an extra layer of excitement to traditional gift exchanges. Teammates will enjoy the element of surprise as gifts move from one player to another.

6. Balloon Pop

In the exciting game of Balloon Pop, participants can find out who they are shopping for. To play this game, each participant writes their name on a slip of paper and places it inside a balloon. Then, folks inflate all the balloons and scatter them around the room. On the count of three, teams try to pop as many balloons as possible. Once the time is up, each player grabs a slip of paper from a popped balloon. Participants become the Secret Santa for whoever’s name is on their slip.

This activity is a quick way to gamify the Secret Santa selection process. Popping balloons to find out gift recipients adds an extra layer of excitement to the game.

7. Reverse Secret Santa

Reverse Secret Santa flips this classic activity on its head! Instead of gifters knowing who they are buying for, giftees know who is shopping for them. To play this game, start by writing each participant’s name down on a piece of paper. Hosts will add the names to a bag and shake it up. Players will take turns drawing a name from the bag. However, instead of buying a gift for that coworker, players will receive a gift from the colleague’s name they drew.

Hosts will record the pairs. Then, teams will go out and buy gifts. During the holiday party, participants will try to guess who they shopped for. Giftees will then open the gifts from their shoppers.

This exercise is one of the most creative Secret Santa games and tests team connections. Colleagues can spend time trying to find out who their giftee is before the party. Alternatively, players can get a gift they believe any recipient would enjoy.

8. Homemade Gift Challenge

The Homemade Gift Challenge is one of the most fun and creative Christmas exchange games. Instead of buying gifts, participants must make heartfelt and personalized presents. Folks could make a wide range of presents, from baked goods to crochet items to digital artwork.

This exercise has several benefits. First, folks who might be on a tighter holiday budget have the option to create a lower-cost gift. Next, making a handmade gift adds a special touch to the presents. Doing a handmade gift exchange also encourages teams to showcase their creativity. Finally, recipients will get to enjoy one-of-a-kind presents from their colleagues.

9. Emoji Gift Exchange

Hosting an Emoji Gift Exchange puts a fun techie twist on traditional Secret Santa lists. To host this activity, start by asking colleagues to write down what they would like to receive. However, instead of using words, participants can only write their wish lists using emojis. For instance, if a participant wanted nail polish, makeup, or clothes, then they could write: 💅 💄 👠

Then, assign Secret Santa partners in the classic fashion. Once folks have a colleague to buy for, give them their coworker’s shopping list. This exercise adds a playful element to Secret Santa.

10. Mystery Gift Bags

During a Mystery Gift Bag exchange, recipients will get a real surprise when they open their gifts! Before the party, give each participant an identical, opaque bag. Then, folks will go shopping, ensuring their gift can fit inside the bag.

During the party, folks will draw numbers to see who gets to open gifts first. Participants randomly pick presents and wait to open them. Once each worker chooses a gift, the team will open each item at the same time. The mystery element of this game adds an extra layer of excitement. Plus, colleagues do not have to feel pressured to shop for one specific individual.

11. Memory Lane Secret Santa

A Memory Lane Secret Santa exchange adds a heartfelt touch to gift giving. Instead of employees writing lists of items they want, they can write a short story about an important memory. This memory could be personal or work related.

Once teams swap names, gift givers get the papers with the memories written on them. Then, shoppers choose gifts based on the memories their colleagues wrote down. During the event, gift givers can share how the present ties into the memory.

This exercise creates a more personalized and meaningful exchange. This approach to Secret Santa fosters a sense of connection among participants.

12. Foodie Secret Santa

Hosting a Foodie Secret Santa involves participants exchanging gifts related to their love for food. Each participant can bring or prepare delightful food-related goodies. Examples include homemade treats, unique spices, or kitchen gadgets. After swapping treats, teams can even have a potluck-style gathering where they share their gifts. This theme adds a tasty element to the festive secret Santa activities.

13. Board Game Swap

Organizing a Board Game Swap is a simple and enjoyable way to exchange gifts. Participants can wrap up a board game they no longer need or want. Then, participants can take turns choosing a present. Optionally, folks can swap board games after opening if they already own the one they received.

The best part about this exercise is you can host a board game tournament after opening gifts! Teams can go head-to-head in structured brackets, or folks can play more casually. If you plan to hold a board game party, then remember to bring snacks and drinks!

Check out this list of the best team building board games.

14. Bookworm Gift Exchange

For a Bookworm Gift Exchange, participants bring a wrapped book to the event. The twist is that folks also include a clue or quote from the book to pique curiosity. During the exchange, others try to guess the book based on the clue before selecting or stealing it. Once each player has a book, they can unwrap them and see which novel they received.

This game adds an element of mystery and intrigue to the gift-giving process. A Bookworm Gift Exchange is especially enjoyable for book lovers and avid readers. Best of all, teams can swap books after they finish reading!

15. Gift Auction

Hosting a Gift Auction adds a thrilling and competitive touch to your Secret Santa exchange. To host this exercise, have folks bring in wrapped gifts to the party. Then, give each participant a set amount of fake currency. Hosts can auction off each gift one at a time. Once each player purchases a gift, take turns opening the presents.

To make the activity even more high stakes, you can offer a prize to the individual who brought the gift that sells for the most fake money. Gift Auctions are among the best Secret Santa games that add a playful and competitive element to the gift exchange.

16. Fortune Dice Exchange

The Fortune Dice Exchange is a creative way to determine the order of gift selection. To play this game, have each participant bring a wrapped gift to the party. Then, put a number on each present. Players will take turns rolling dice and taking the gift that corresponds to the number they roll. To make this game even more engaging, you can have players complete a challenge based on their rolls.

This game brings an element of chance and excitement to the gift exchange. Players will have a blast completing exercises and opening mystery gifts!

17. Thrift Store Challenge

The Thrift Store Challenge is a fun way to celebrate the holidays on a budget! The only rule for this exchange is folks must shop at thrift stores. You can either have players shop for specific colleagues or just bring in the coolest thrifted item they can find. The goal is to buy quirky or vintage items for the exchange.

This challenge adds an element of surprise and creativity. Shoppers will have a blast exploring what thrift stores have to offer. Also, this game is a budget-friendly and sustainable way to give presents.

18. Retro Revival Exchange

A Retro Revival Exchange is a gift-giving blast from the past! For this activity, choose a specific decade as the theme, like the ’80s or ’90s. Participants then find gifts that capture the essence of that time period. Presents could range from vintage toys to retro clothing. For instance, ’90s shoppers could look for Furbies, Tamagotchis, or Beanie Babies.

This exchange brings a sense of nostalgia and fun to the Secret Santa experience. Recipients will love getting presents from their pasts.

19. A to Z Gift Exchange

To organize an A to Z Gift Exchange, assign each participant a letter of the alphabet. The challenge is to find or create a gift that starts with or relates to that assigned letter. For instance, if someone gets the letter “C,” then their gift could be a candle or chocolates. Another option is to have shoppers buy items that start with the first letter of their recipients’ names.

This theme adds a creative and personalized touch to the gift-giving process. Adding the A to Z challenge makes the exercise both entertaining and thoughtful.

20. Ornament Exchange

Hosting an Ornament Exchange is a festive way to celebrate the holidays. Participants bring or create holiday ornaments to exchange with others. Shoppers can get traditional ornaments, funny decor, or even tree toppers.

Each individual leaves the event with a new ornament to add to their tree. This delightful theme encourages creativity, as participants can find personalized ornaments.

Final Thoughts

Secret Santa is a classic team building activity, so playing alternative versions of this game is a great idea. Teams will likely be familiar with the classic Secret Santa rules. By changing up this exercise, folks will get to know each other better and build strong bonds. Colleagues will have a blast with these alternative exercises. Whether you decide to add a unique theme or change the gift-giving process, Secret Santa games are a fun addition to your holiday party.

Next, check out our posts on virtual Christmas parties, virtual Christmas event games, and holiday team building activities.

FAQ: Secret Santa games

Here are frequently asked questions about Secret Santa games.

What are some popular Secret Santa games?

Popular Secret Santa games include exciting options like Reverse Secret Santa, Mystery Gift Bags, and Board Game Swap.

How can you make Secret Santa games more fun?

Adding unique themes for gifts or having giftees complete challenges is a great way to make Secret Santa more fun.

What are some creative Secret Santa game ideas for office parties?

Creative ideas for office parties include Balloon Pop, Hot Potato Variant, and Secret Santa Dice. These exercises put a fun spin on the classic activity.

What are the best Secret Santa games for large groups?

For a large group Secret Santa setting, consider games that allow for many individuals to participate. Examples include the Ornament Exchange, Retro Revival Exchange, and Thrift Store Challenge.

Can you play Secret Santa games online?

Several online platforms make it easy to play Secret Santa games online. You can also coordinate with shared spreadsheets or project management software.

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CEO at teambuilding.com.
I write about my experience working with and leading remote teams since 2010.

LinkedIn Michael Alexis

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