Secrets vs elephants

It’s no secret that Secret Snowflake trumps White Elephant


During the winter months, holiday cheer is palpable, and that unique feeling that comes around this time of year is spreading like wildfire. Gifts are often the spreader of this joy, but the best way to give gifts is something to consider each year. Secret Snowflake, or Secret Santa, is a practice synonymous with this season for many, while White Elephant gift exchanges are also a titan in the gift-giving hemisphere. This begs the question, which way of delivering gifts to friends and loved ones is the champion of cheer, the master of merry, the top dog with the egg nog?

While they both accomplish the same goal of giving presents, the ways that the presents are distributed are totally different. The game plan of Secret Snowflake is simple: everyone gets a name at random and then is tasked with giving a gift to that person. For White Elephant exchanges, each person brings a gift to a get-together and then strategically sifts through the gifts by random chance or by “stealing” a gift from someone else. These different approaches create different experiences, affecting the overall vibe of the exchange. White Elephants prioritize the presents themselves, as the entertainment comes from selecting a random present in hopes of something good, or even taking a sought-after gift that could be stolen on a later turn. Secret Snowflake prioritizes the people in the exchange, as half the focus is on what gift you can get that is personal and tailored to the specific tastes of the person, and the other half is trying to figure out who everyone is gifting to. 

Ultimately, the answer to the big debate is found in the spirit of what is being celebrated. The holidays are about the feeling of appreciation and festivity, surrounded by friends and family. The gift exchange that perfectly encapsulates this heart-warming feeling is the Secret Snowflake. While White Elephants are entertaining, Secret Snowflake does more to promote togetherness instead of competitiveness, and the simple act of a gift meant for a specific someone brings the group together as a whole. 

White Elephant is more of a game than a gift exchange, and with any game comes competition. This competition clouds the meaning behind the holidays, when everyone is aiming to secure the gift that is deemed best, the feeling of giving is overlooked and can even be replaced with jealousy. The gifts themselves are also not as good as Secret Snowflake because players must choose something that everyone would love, which is much harder than it seems. Everyone has a chance to get any gift, meaning a gift that is funny to two-thirds of the group may not be a good choice, as there is a one-third chance that they won’t receive it. The one saving grace of White Elephant is, on paper, that it is more entertaining than a Secret Snowflake exchange. But in practice, hosting a Secret Snowflake is just as, if not more, fun than a White Elephant.

Secret Snowflake simply does what a White Elephant does, but better. Seeing the gifts that people got for each other is incredibly entertaining, and participants learn more about each other during the process. The gifts are the best to receive and the greatest to give, as everyone is bound to get a gift that they will likely adore. The most important reason why Secret Snowflake trumps all is that it amplifies the holiday spirit. Picking out and giving a personally selected gift and watching people receive their gifts fills the air with a sense of cheer and appreciation for others that everyone looks for this time of year. Ultimately the holidays are all about togetherness, and just being with friends and family will accomplish that on its own. But, for those who are looking to heighten their holiday experience, taking part in a Secret Snowflake is the way to go.