Elfster.com is pretty much an online secret Santa, but the thing I find interesting is that you can list things that you want and things that you don’t need, which your secret Santa can look up in order to get the right gift for you. If you’re interested, then you can see it in action through their instruction video.
It makes me wonder if this changes how we go about gift giving. Part of the aim of a Secret Santa is to surprise your particular gift-receiver. I see a double-edged sword popping up. On the one hand, if you get them something that they listed as wanting or needing, then they aren’t disappointed at receiving, say, a fruitcake or something like that. (At one point, I thought this was more of a myth than anything else. People don’t really give fruitcakes. Oh, let me tell you that they actually do. [Which fruitcakes aren’t actually that bad if properly prepared. Usually it’s when they’re to dry that it’s just bad.])
However, limiting Secret Santa only to what’s on the want list may prevent a person from getting some wicked cool that they never considered. Having an already made list keeps the Secret Santa from being able to use their creativity or come up with something that the gift-receiver may actually need rather than merely want.
Eliminating that creative gift can take the fun out of secret Santa, because you can’t even begin to accurately guess who your secret santa might be. You see, a gift says as much about the giver as it does the receiver. Now, you can still say something about yourself even with a list. Let’s say that I listed headphones as an item on my want list. If my secret santa gave me some really nice noise reduction headphones, then that tells me that my secret santa a.) takes great pride in the gifts that they give b.) thinks quite a lot of me or even possibly c.) is an aficionado of headphones. Of course, there are other possibilities as well, but these are fairly good guesses. Based on these possibilities, I can then predict who I believe my secret Santa to be.
What I’m saying is that an unexpected gift can heighten this hypothesizing. You then have to tap into a person’s creativity, which can make your prediction totally off the mark and truly surprise you as to who your real secret Santa is. That’s what makes secret Santa exciting–in my opinion. It’s the mystery.