Thursday, December 31, 2009

Stealth game brings out the Mission Impossible in us

Secret Santa starts this week at work. Just in case you've never participated in this holiday experience, let me explain.

Secret Santa, also known as Kris Kringle, is a five-week gift exchange game. Players’ names are drawn from a hat.You are a Secret Santa for the person whose name you draw, giving gifts anonymously until the very last one. Bestow as many gifts as you’d like, but the total value must not exceed $15.

Be sure to sign gift tags Secret Santa, S.S. for short or leave them blank. To ensure anonymity, some change their handwriting or ask someone else to sign for them. Finally, in the last week, reveal who you are by signing your name on the last gift or by hand-delivering it.

Part of the challenge is figuring out how to deliver gifts in an undercover operation without letting on it's you. If your place of employment is a large complex with multiple buildings, try sending gifts through interoffice mail.

Serious Secret Santas are an unusual breed of undercover givers who make "Mission Impossible" look like child’s play. They devise clandestine plans for gifts to suddenly appear on recipients’ desks without a trace or trail.

With a North Pole twinkle in their eyes, the people at my work are really into Secret Santa and look forward to it all year.

Last year during the fourth week of S.S., I realized the level of seriousness when I stopped by the office of my recipient, a Secret Santa die hard and organizer of the annual event. I wasn't conducting reconnaissance. I had a legitimate reason for being there.

On the windowsill behind her desk were all the gifts I had given her, displayed for everyone to see. With poorly disguised curiosity, I gawked and quickly passed judgment on my Secret Santa efforts. There on the ledge were a Dollar Store box of chocolates, a cheesy Christmas ornament, a blah pair of cotton winter gloves and a gaudy pair of earrings.

Because she was showcasing my Secret Santa acumen for all to see, I thought maybe I’d better step up my game, but quickly settled myself down with a little self-talk. It’s anonymous, silly. You old worrywart, nobody knows it’s you! Whew, I felt better.

This year, I am changing my strategy a bit. For some months now, I have been stockpiling clearance items that were marked down to under $5. I may even drop by my new recipient's office for casual surveillance. Plus, I'm thinking about how to cunningly deliver each gift under the radar just like Saint Nick himself.

If you haven’t been a Secret Santa, you may want to consider tossing your name into the hat. It could be one the most magical holiday games you’ll ever play.

2009 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took three first-place awards. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on Facebook.

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