A Secret Santa is a holiday tradition, with different names in numerous countries. In it, there's a system of secret picks, where a group of people pick names of someone else in the group and give each other gifts without saying who it came from (at least at first).
It's often played straight, but there have been a number of times where someone sneaks their name in as the only one for the group. Hilarity Ensues
. May result in one or more characters engaging in Convenience Store Gift Shopping
In some cases, the exchange itself is still the same but with a different name, like "Holiday Helper" or "White Elephant," to be more respectful to non-Christians, since Santa Claus is traditionally only associated with Christmas
, which is still technically a Christian holiday, despite becoming very secular (meaning "non-religious") in recent years.
Another common Christmas-affiliated name for it is "Kris Kringle"; while this is another name for Santa Claus, if it's used it's normally in the context of a Secret Santa arrangement.
- Junie B. and her class are assigned to do this in Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells (P.S.: So Does May) and Junie B. is less than thrilled when she's assigned be the Secret Santa to her nemesis, May.
- In Planet Tad, Tad's class participates in one of these, with Tad as a secret Santa to a girl that he likes. It bombs badly when he chooses chocolate as his gift and she thinks that her Secret Santa's trying to make her fat.
- Secret Santa, a teen romance novel by Sabrina James, is all about this. It's about a high school in a small suburb of New York City called North Ridge that does a school-wide Secret Santa gift exchange. There's tons of mishaps but everything is solved by the night of the school's Winter Wonderland-dance.
- Done in House, where he slips his name as the only one to mess with his team. They figure it out quickly, but he ends up getting gifts from all of them anyways.
- Also in the 2012 Christmas episode of Pawn Stars, when Chumlee, who is organizing the company party, puts only his name in the Secret Santa hat. The others figure it out, call him out on it at the party, and do a proper Secret Santa.
- In The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Maddie organizes the Tipton staff Secret Santa and makes sure that London picks her name, hoping for an expensive gift.
- Monk had an episode called "Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa". Stottlemeyer forgets to buy a gift for his Secret Santa, so he regifts a bottle of port someone had sent him. Then the bottle turns out to be poisoned...
- Happens in a Christmas episode of The Office.
- And again, though not as a major plot point.
- Happens in season four of Friends. By the end of the episode, pretty much everyone knows who got who.
- In Glee, Sue slips her name in as the only one.
- The Baby-Sitters Club has the club play this in one TV episode. At one point, they all go to the same store.
- Done in Victorious where Sikowitz assigns everyone in his class Secret Santas and makes a rule that the gifts have to be meaningful, otherwise they would have to do "Christmas yodeling."
- Tony in NCIS once participated in an office Secret Santa and got a grumpy administrator's name. He winds up (somehow) figuring out she always wanted one specific doll from her childhood and melting her icy heart with it.
- Organized by Di V, of all people/electronics, in Penny Arcade...except that the only name in the hat is Di V.
- Hardly Working created a Black Comedy version called "Kovert Krampus," named for The Krampus, a holy jolly goat beast of Alpine folklore, who travels alongside Santa, maiming and punishing the naughty children. Rather than buying gifts for each other, the staff punish each other for their lies and transgressions, with a $20 spending limit.
- A Christmas Special of Hey Arnold! uses this as the basis for title character's difficulty in finding a gift.
- This is a plot point in an episode of Braceface. Sharon pulls out Nina Harper's name, and is morally torn between actually getting her a present and not getting anything at all—which is understandable, given how mean Nina generally is to people.
- The Simpsons: In "'Tis the Fifteenth Seasons", Homer gets an extravagant present from his secret Santa (Carl). Homer forgets to bring something for Lenny, since he's Lenny's Secret Santa, so he goes to a snack machine and buys him some Certs. Later on he makes up for it by getting Lenny a photo cube with pictures of the two of them and Carl.