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Secret Santa

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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, or someone buying A Gift for Themselves after picking their own name.

In some cases, the exchange itself is still the same but with a different name (like "Holiday Helper" or "White Elephant") to try and be more respectful to non-Christians, since Santa Claus is really only associated with Christmas, which (although it has become fairly secular—basically being more about Santa than Jesus Christ) is still technically a Christian holiday.

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.


Asian Animation

  • In Noonbory and the Super 7, a Toobalooba Christmas tradition is that everybory finds a gift for somebory else, then leaves it at their door in the middle of the night, without a note saying who it's from. The episode "Kiki's Gift" is about Kikibory trying to retrieve the doll she made for Noonbory after it gets stolen.


  • The Miraculous Ladybug fic Secret Santa by Thelastpilot is about Adrien and Marinette's class participating in a Secret Santa. At least, that's the first chapter. Six more (plus a three chapter long sequel) are about Marinette and Adrien using the rest of the holiday to bond.
  • Cat Tales: The spinoff "JLAin't" has a yearly one for the central members of the Justice League. It's traditional that no matter who draws his name, Plastic Man always gets Silly Putty.
  • In leading by example, there's a flashback scene to a game of White Elephant at the end of everyone's junior year. The gift Kylo gave was a wooden dick keychain, which ended up going to Phasma. When she insults him over this, Kylo admits he was hoping it would go to Hux, who promptly flips him off.
  • In Through the crack in the wall, Mirabel discovers Bruno after he ends up leaving her several gifts through the week as an anonymous provider.


  • 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 one 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 (2004): Erik Bigelow's secret Santa sends him malicious gifts that imply knowledge of various misdeeds that could get Erik fired.
  • The Princess Diaries: In one of the sequels, Mia's school runs a voluntary "Secret Snowflake" program. It's different than the standard Secret Santa in that, instead of one gift, the participants are supposed to do a series of small, nice things for the person whose name they drew over the course of finals week, to help diffuse stress. Mia gets talked into signing up by her friend Tina and then immediately forgets about it, so when she starts getting flowers on her locker everyday, she assumes she has a secret admirer and tries to figure out who it is (and at one point, her crush picks up a flower that had fallen, leading her to believe he's her secret admirer). It's not until Tina mentions that her Secret Snowflake has forgotten her that Mia realizes she's Tina's Secret Snowflake, so now she has to rush to get her something great to make up for it.
  • Secret Santa (2007), a teen romance novel by Sabrina James, is all about this. The story's about a high school in a small suburb of New York City that does a school-wide version of this trope—there's tons of mishaps caused by the gift exchange, but everything's solved by the night of the school's Winter Wonderland-dance.
  • The Winnie Years: Winnie's grade does one of these in Ten. Winnie is assigned a girl named Mindy, and gives her mini peanut butter cups in a painted container. Mindy tells Winnie that she doesn't like the gift, and makes Winnie cry. Later in the book, Mindy becomes Winnie's bully.

Live-Action TV

  • Done in House, where he slips his name as the only one to mess with his team. They figure it out quickly, but he then leaves a Christmas box in plain view of them. Thirteen quickly (and correctly) deduces its from House himself; but House comments to Wilson that since they can't be absolutely certain, they'll all get him a gift anyway. He's right.
  • 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 & 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.
  • 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 in some way—if the rules of the gift exchange aren't followed, students will be punished by being forced to participate is something called "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.
  • Friends: In one episode, the B plot was about the gang doing a Secret Santa, while the A plot was Joey punishing Chandler for being interested in Joey's ex-girlfriend. Eventually Joey relents and tells Chandler to run after her, then says "And Merry Christmas... from your Secret Santa." Once Chandler is gone, Joey turns to the others and says "Okay, who has Chandler? Because I have to trade."
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: In the cold open of "Game Night", Jake shows off his skills by deducing who all the precinct detectives got for Secret Santa based on their reactions. The others decide to draw again and leave Jake out, to Jake's horror.

Puppet Shows

  • In The Muppets (2015) episode "Single All the Way", Yolanda volunteers to run the Secret Santa for the crew of Up Late with Miss Piggy. Since she was left out the previous year, she puts her own name in repeatedly and nobody else's.

Visual Novel

  • A plot element in Magical Diary, where the protagonist must draw a name from a bowl and create a gift for that person. In Horse Hall you will always be assigned to give a gift to whichever of your two roommates you have the lowest Relationship Values with, while the other will give a gift to you.


  • Organized by DiV, of all people/electronics, in Penny Arcade...except that the only name in the hat is DiV.
  • Paradox Space introduces Secret Sufferer, a 12th Perigee's Eve tradition that started with the Sufferer's followers sending dangerous and threatening "gifts" to Highblood trolls. This evolved into an annual tradition of gift-giving among friend groups- gifts that, since this was Alternia, were usually extremely deadly. (Notably, there used to be thirteen trolls in the main friend group until one of them was killed by Vriska's gift.)

Web Original

Western Animation

  • The Hey Arnold! Christmas Episode focuses on Arnold trying to reunite Mr. Hyunh with his long-lost daughter after drawing his name for the boarding house's Secret Santa.
  • In a Christmas special for Braceface called "Angels Among Us," Sharon Spitz pulls out Nina Harper's name in this and is morally torn between actually getting her a present and not getting her anything at all. Nina's eventually revealed to be Sharon's Secret Santa, and gives her a gift basket containing things such as mini-shampoo bottles (like what you would find in a hotel), a car calender (Nina's dad runs a car dealearship) and a stuff blue kitten that Maria had gotten Nina in the previous year's Secret Santa-gift exchange.
  • Robot Chicken: The Legion of Doom participates in an annual Secret Santa. They're forbidding exploding toys this year, prompting Toyman to complain that he's the only one affected by that Obvious Rule Patch.
  • 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.
  • Phineas and Ferb has the O.W.C.A. members do a Secret Santa; Perry gets a CD of someone called Sal Tuscany. This winds up being a plot point for a Batman Gambit done by Santa Claus himself.
  • In Prep & Landing, Magee, one of the Christmas Elves, mentions that she's Santa's Secret Santa and seems to be having a hard time with it. The second special is actually called ''Prep and Landing: Secret Santa", but isn't really an example. (It's about the protagonists trying to help Mrs. Claus get something from Santa's office.)
  • My Little Pony: Best Gift Ever is a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic special set with this plot as its central conflict. Twilight Sparkle and her friends all draw names to see who they're going to buy a gift for. But since each pony is only getting one gift, it has to be "the best gift ever" to compensate.
  • An story from the Llama Llama television series involves Llama Llama and the other kids in his class being Secret Santas to each other and struggling to figure out what gifts to pick. Llama Llama is Secret Santa to Gilroy, while Luna is his Secret Santa.
  • Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures: When the town does a Secret Santa, Blueberry buys Lemon a book that she'd love to receive herself, without any regard for whether Lemon would like it. When Blueberry then receives the same book from her Secret Santa, she launches an investigation and finds out that the entire rest of the main cast (except Strawberry) had simply passed the book along because none of them wanted it either. Blueberry apologizes to Lemon, gets her a proper gift, and prompts the rest of the girls to also get something the recipient would actually like.
  • Strawberry Shortcake: Berry in the Big City: In the episode “Strawberry’s Perfect Present”, Strawberry ends up getting the weirdo twins Cheese Strudel and Cherry Streusel for the Berryworks’ Secret Swirl gift exchange. Throughout the episode she follows them around to see what they’d like, but the two being Cloudcuckoolanders means everything they do is nonsensical, and by the end of it Strawberry only manages to learn they like sauerkraut. Defeated, Strawberry bakes them sauerkraut cookies, but the twins end up being delighted at the gift…because a rat crawled in the cookie box, and they assumed that was the gift. The two sincerely thank Strawberry for their new pet rat and run off, as Strawberry is satisfied that her perfect gift-giving streak remains unbroken. Until she realizes she gave them a dirty rat off the streets and chases after them.
  • The B-Plot of Bob's Burgers episode "Gene's Christmas Break" features Teddy proposing a neighborhood Secret Santa. However, Teddy initially only wants it to be him, Bob and Linda in an attempt to keep their attention on him (he does indeed plan to buy one of them a gift though). When Linda feels three people aren't enough, she gets Mort and Mike the mailman to join in. Teddy grows increasingly unhappy and pissed off when he draws Mort's name and Linda refuses to let him swap or help him buy a gift. The exchange ends as:
    • Bob (who didn't want to do this) got Mike a gift card because he didn't know what Mike would like. Mike at least seems okay with it.
    • Linda got Bob and paid to get their car washed. Bob legitimately appreciates the gift.
    • Mike got Linda and simply gave her a bunch of stamps.
    • Mort got Teddy, and got him a plaque with Teddy's name on it to put on Teddy's favorite stool in the restaurant. Teddy is actually really touched by what a thoughtful gift that is, immediately making him regret buying Mort a barn-themed calendar. Mort at least doesn't hold it against Teddy and says he loves the calendar.


Video Example(s):


Kiki's Gift

It's a Toobalooba tradition that Christmas gifts are left anonymously in the dead of night.

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