A foolproof guide to mastering Secret Santa

If you’re at a loss for what appropriate titbit to get your colleague, friend or family member this Christmas, this tried and tested gift guide is guaranteed to turn some heads.

Welcome to a weekly life and relationships column by Iris Owen, aka Nectarine Girl – the reigning queen of Depop, fame-hungry wordsmith, and author of the wackiest newsletter in London, Nectarine News.

Without wanting to say anything too crazy, I think I love Secret Santa more than anyone in the whole entire world. So much so that I began discussions for this year’s exchange in June.

Out of all the events in my annual calendar, this one is the most special because I truly excel at it. Whether you’re buying for colleagues, friends or family, let me help you master the art of Secret Santa.

The premise of this seasonal activity is simple: draw a name out of a hat and get that person a gift for a tenner or less. Secret” may be in the title, but that’s never stopped me from begging people to reveal the recipient of their pressie. To be honest, I’m so good at gift-giving that people usually come to me for advice anyway.

I’m the one organising our office Secret Santa and so far, I have had three separate colleagues pull me aside in the communal area or on the way to the loo, and ask me to point out who their person actually is. In other words, things aren’t going well.

Keep this on the down-low, but this year, I’ve got Ricardo from finance. I know three things about Ricardo: he’s good with numbers, loves a baked apple pie from McDonald’s, and his celebrity crush is Jennifer Aniston. I usually begin the gift-giving process by drawing up a mind map of the person’s interests, before merging them all into one outstandingly good present. Ricardo’s in for a treat.

Not to promote recycling your old tat this year, but one of the best gifts I ever received was a photo-mug of someone’s sport’s day at school”

Now, here’s something that’ll help make you the best ever gift-giver: personalisation. If you can buy something online, then chances are you can also get it personalised, and the turnaround is usually super quick. One Christmas, I got my entire family towelling slippers embossed with their names. It only cost me £6.99 to hear my nan go, Oh my word, I can’t believe they had Pamela’ in stock!” You can’t put a price on that.

Last December, I was at my wits’ end trying to decide what to get for my dad. I know, he’s my dad, which means he should probably be easier to buy for than Ricardo from finance, but here we are. I’d been getting him socks and dark chocolate for far too long, and it was time to switch things up. I trotted down to his local cafe and asked if I could buy credit for five egg and chips – his favourite. Dad was chuffed, and in the new year, cashed it in. Hopefully not all in one go, but my point remains: a customised present goes a long way.

Sometimes I wish I could be my own Secret Santa. My taste in jewellery definitely falls within the five to £10 bracket, and I love slightly outdated things you might already have lying around: fridge magnets, novelty photo frames, a cheesy keyring. Not to promote recycling your old tat this year, but one of the best gifts I ever received was a photo-mug of someone’s sport’s day at school. I really do have low standards. One man’s trash, and all that…

At the end of the day, Christmas shouldn’t revolve around material things. I reckon it’s more about sharing the love. If you’ve gotten this far and still feel stuck, just take a selfie with your Secret Santa recipient, print it out, whack it in a frame and you might feature on their mantelpiece until next year rolls around. If that’s not quite your (or their) style, keep scrolling for a tailored gift-giving guide to reaching Secret Santa superstardom.

Nectarine Girl’s Secret Santa gift guide


Personalised shot glasses. Quick warning: these are rarely dishwasher safe. I learned that the hard way.


Top Trumps. There are so many types available to buy, and it’s only a two person game, really.


This is risky, but I once imported 100 fake cockroaches from China and what was intended as a harmless prank ended quite badly. Having said that, this gift is sure to liven up a dull Wednesday afternoon.


Keep it classic with a bottle of Baileys. Tie a bow around the neck and pop it in a bottle bag, then the pair of you can raise a glass to a fruitful next quarter.


Go through their Depop likes and nab something from there. Say you saw it and thought it would suit them perfectly. They will be so impressed.

UP next

More like this

00:00 / 00:00