How to Play Office (Dirty) Secret Santa

Posted December 11, 2018, by Jenny

Christmas is a wonderful time of year (plentiful booze, treats for eats, and silly parties). But at the same time, the holiday can be a minefield of never-ending costs and social stressors. Many of us would like to buy a gift for our colleagues, but if you buy for everyone you either have to go very cheap and cheerful, spend a fortune, or risk leaving people out. And who wants to leave anyone feeling left out at Christmas?! If your office is having a Christmas party before the holidays, then while you’re all at it, why not play a game of good ole down and dirty secret Santa? This fun game makes sure everyone has a blast, has a chance to get merry together, no-one gets left out, and no-one has to break the bank to join in. What is this mysterious and slightly dodgy sounding game you might ask? I’m going to explain all…

Dirty secret Santa is a hilarious game in which all the players only need to buy one present, and then by the end of the game, everyone has one present to take home. How does it work? Here are the rules:

#1 – Everyone participating in the game must buy one gift within a set price range

The first rule makes sure everyone will spend their $$ within the same price range. This means whatever the outcome, the general price and value of the present work out around the same. You can set your own price range for your office. In general, the idea is to make sure the range isn’t too expensive, so everyone can afford to take part but isn’t so low the presents aren’t desirable.  

Pro tip: When you’re choosing a present for the game, make sure you try to choose something desirable or fun or both. The game works best when the presents are wanted by a lot of the players. You could come up with an incentive for players to buy a good present by giving some kind of prize (bottle of wine or box of chocolates) to the person who bought the most popular (stolen) gift.

#2 – Pay attention to how you wrap the presents (have some fun)

Everyone should take some time to wrap their presents in a way which will make them look attractive. Or you could have some fun with your wrapping by disguising the true shape of the gift. Consider putting a couple of layers of wrapping paper, adding bulges, or you could even add some weight to give the impression the present is heavier than it really is.  

Pro tip: HAVE FUN and bring your playful self to this stage of the game.

#3 – Set a date for the dirty secret Santa event

Everyone needs to gather together to play this game. You could choose to do the game at the office Christmas party, at the end of the last meeting before the holidays, or perhaps on your last day at work before the holidays. You know your schedule and what will work best. Set a date and make sure everyone can come!

The big day has arrived what happens next?

#4 –Put all the gifts together in the centre of the room

Gather up everyone gifts and put them on a table in the centre of the room. Ideally, the dropping present off part can be done anonymously but it doesn’t have to be anonymous if you prefer not. To keep things anonymous, you could have a Christmas sack for people to put their present in when they arrive. Or you can devise another way to make sure dropping off the presents works out anonymously.

#5 – Count the number of players and make a draw with pieces of paper

Put numbers from 1 – x on pieces of paper in a hat. For example, if you are a group of 10 people, put 10 pieces of paper in a hat with the numbers 1-10 written on them. Everyone can choose one piece of paper and their number will dictate the order of their turn.

#6 – Start playing and stealing, here’s how

The first person now gets to choose a present from the pile. After choosing a present they must open the gift they chose. They must now display the opened gift in view of all the other players.

Now the next person takes their turn. They have two options. They can choose something from the pile of unopened gifts. Or they can steal the present of the person/ people who already have opened a gift.

At this point, if someone has been stolen from, they can then get indirect revenge by stealing a replacement present (they MUSN’T take the one they just lost back). OR they can take an unopened present from the pile, making sure they open the shiny new gift.

The next person can now take their turn. They can again, choose an unopened present from the pile, or they can steal from one of the presents opened already by one of the other players.

The cycle continues until all the presents are opened and EVERYONE has one gift.

Pro tip: Play in a circle so everyone can see the gifts, and after the draw organise the circle so everyone is seated in the correct order of their turn.

#6 – The freezing rule

Sometimes this game can get a bit mad, especially if people start stealing one present much more than any of the others. One way to make sure there isn’t a never-ending cycle of one present being passed from hand to hand with none of the others being stolen, you can use a rule where any present which has been stolen x number of times gets frozen, and can’t be stolen from there on in. You might set the maximum number at 3 or 4 or 5. This part and the rule is up to you.

#7 – Why not drinky-fy the game?

If the team in your office are fond of a bit of tipple to liven up your parties, why not add in a drinking game twist to your dirty secret Santa event. Anytime a player takes a present from the centre pile (unwrapping it) they must drink a shot. Then, every time a present gets stolen from you, you have to drink a shot. When you steal a present from someone else you don’t have to drink a shot…

Have lots of fun everyone, and do make sure you keep things civil, everyone has a safe way to get home, and don’t let things get too mad if you do spice up the game with #7!


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