Like many concepts borrowed from the West, Indians have also taken the tradition of Secret Santa and made it their own. As part of the Christmas game, members of a community (classroom, workplace, etc) are randomly assigned a person to whom they anonymously give gifts. The said person becomes your ‘Santee’ and you their ‘Secret Santa’, which kick-starts the process of mysterious gifts and messages doing the rounds.
Many schools and colleges in the City have made it a regular December feature. Vanhmingliani Hnamte, the cultural secretary of Jyoti Nivas College, informs, “Every class and department plays it separately. We pick up chits to decide whose Santa we are and till the college Christmas programme, have to leave chocolates and messages for our Santee everyday in their desks. Later, we all gather, give our final gifts and reveal ourselves as the person’s Santa.” She adds, “The tradition wasn’t as fun when we joined college because we didn’t know our batchmates too well. But being final-year students, this is very exciting because it’s the last time we get to play it.”
The game has also found its way on to the Internet, with City-specific Santas and Santees appointed to those who wish to participate. Darshan, one of the people behind the ‘BengaluruSanta’ Twitter handle, says, “Secret Santa on Twitter started in Mumbai three years ago and has expanded to Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru and the UAE.
There has been a growth in the participation levels, with more and more people wishing to join in. One of the most beautiful aspects of it is the gifts, be it books, DVDs, figurines or T-shirts. Somewhere, everyone who participates becomes a child. Your Santa buys a gift for your inner child rather than the office-going person that you are. The inhibitions you would have of gifting a girl or a guy in person is no longer here.”
Darshan adds that the disadvantage is maintaining the quality of the participants. “We face a constant struggle ensuring that people who enjoy this game participate in its true spirit. It isn’t about getting a gift but also about sending something thoughtful. Another disadvantage is the privacy levels but we recommend that one gives the office address,” he explains.
Another variation that can be found on Twitter is ThePetSanta, which allows animal lovers to play the role of Santa to animals instead. “PetSanta stems from the need to help the animal rights and charity NGOs. For them, raising funds can be time-consuming task and puts pressure on their already limited bandwidth. So we’re trying to open up those avenues for them and in turn, selflessly give. We’re overwhelmed by the response so far,” shares Abhishek Agarwal, one of the founders.