Office Secret Santa is Here to Sleigh You


Office Secret Santa is Here to Sleigh You

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Ho Ho Hum.

’Tis the merry season, and the time for manufactured jolliness. The time of the year when your multinational corporation with millions of dollars in profits will get a guy to dress up as Santa during coffee break and distribute a 50-paise Mango Bite to everyone. Would you believe that this is the better part of the day? For this amazing ritual is followed by the painful gift distribution ceremony also known as Secret Santa.

The tradition of Secret Santa is a certainty in most offices, next only to death and taxes. The reindeers are flagged off with an email from the HR team, full of eyesore creatives and colourful text: If you work in a tech-savvy company, you might even receive a GIF with blinky lights. The lights will fail to illuminate your soul, which you signed off on the day you accepted your appointment letter. The enthusiasm of the HR team organising Secret Santa, and the lack of it from everyone else, is on full display when the staff gathers around to pick up chits and draw names.

Maybe you will think that it’s just a nice break from your hectic work sked and you get to hang with your colleagues. Tricha from HR goes on to elaborate the rules of Secret Santa that everyone will ignore, like flight-safety announcements by the cabin crew before take-off. Despite the unnecessary and precise nature of explanation from HR, there is always that one guy who still doesn’t understand how the whole thing works. He will then proceed to ask questions, much like that annoying topper in class who would insist on clarifying “doubts” with the teacher, even after the bell rang.

The pointlessness of the entire exercise will be brought home when you pick up your chit and draw Vishal from Sales. “Vishal who? Exactly.” You’ve never spoken to, or interacted with this person in your life. In fact, while you were working from the Mumbai office, he was away at a client location in Chennai the whole time. But it’s now time to stalk this person a bit on social media and get him a meaningful gift that must be greater than ₹1,000 in value. You have never been able to crack a meaningful gift even for your partner and mom; what hope does Vishal from Sales have? But your online shopping game is on point as you open Amazon and Flipkart in separate tabs and set the budget filter to ₹1,000-1,200.

You try to sneakily have a peek at his desk and notice a GoT quote pinned on the board and a Batman figure next to a “You just got Litt up” coffee mug. For you, who doesn’t want to put in a lot of effort, this is all the information you need. God bless American media and culture and the merchandising that comes with it. All you need to do now, is get him a cool shirt with a Star Wars quote along with many small things that include fridge magnets, pens, keychains and bottles, so it feels like you’ve made a big deal out of this.

Secret Santa allows people to be a lot of things, and one of it is anonymous. The temptation to embarrass your boss is immense.

If your feeling toward Secret Santa borders on indifference, your colleague Tanmay’s is based on hatred. He has drawn the name of the Mao Zedong in his life, his manager. Secret Santa allows people to be a lot of things, and one of it is anonymous. The temptation to embarrass your boss is immense, and it must be played with carefully, covering all your tracks and making sure the plan is foolproof. The last thing you want is your 1,000-buck prank at Secret Santa to cost you lakhs in performance review at the end of the year.

It isn’t doomsday for everyone, though. Aniket has drawn his crush from Marketing. Apart from Tricha, he is now the only other person looking forward to this festive social experiment. He has decided to go all out and smash the ₹1,000 limit. From books to sports gear to really expensive boots, he’s covered it all. He is the one who embodies the true spirit of Christmas, the spirit of giving. So what if he expects a little bit in return?

The day of the celebration finally arrives and everyone has to show up to work wearing red and white as part of the dress code advisory issued by Tricha. The staff quietly place their gifts in the designated area which the Santa (office boy) will later distribute. The awkwardness and nervous energy in the room can be cut with a knife.

At last, the gift distribution ceremony commences and Santa calls out one name after another and hands out their gifts. No matter how old you are, the thought of receiving a gift fills everyone up with child-like joy, as they start unwrapping their gifts there itself.

Everyone is slyly paying attention to the reaction of their recipients. General Mao has just received a bag full of sand and going by his reaction, it could end the same way it ended for Mao’s critics. Aniket’s crush is on cloud nine and it is clear that he can’t wait to ruin the rules of the game by announcing that he was the one who got the gifts. Tricha from HR is not going to be pleased about this.

The rest of the Santas can tell by the first two seconds, whether their recipients genuinely liked the gift or are pretending to be gracious. The lack of creativity on display with most of the gifts would have Picasso spinning in his grave. You look at some of the gifts and wonder, “Well, at least I’m not THAT person who recycled their Diwali dry-fruit hamper before it expired.”

And then, amid the noise of tinsel and bubble wrap being popped, you hear a loud grunt from about 10 feet away, that attracts the attention of the entire office. It is Vishal from Sales. “Yaar ye kis chutiye ne shirt order kiya? My size is XL and this is a bloody M.”