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How to Host a Socially-Distanced Secret Santa With Food

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Janisa loves finding and sharing creative ways to celebrate and bring people together.

Quarantine Secret Santa is a twist on the original Christmastime activity, but instead of exchanging gifts, participants exchange food delivery!

Quarantine Secret Santa is a twist on the original Christmastime activity, but instead of exchanging gifts, participants exchange food delivery!

About Traditional Secret Santa

I think that everyone has participated in a Secret Santa gift exchange at least once in their life (or at least heard about it). Traditionally, Secret Santa takes place around Christmas time.

Within a group composed of classmates, colleagues, family members, friends, or some mix of the above, each participant is randomly assigned another to get a gift. They then buy a gift for their selected recipient without revealing their identity. Participants are often able to create wishlists in order to help their Secret Santa select a gift. These events typically have budget guidelines so that everyone receives a gift of similar value.

The gift exchange usually takes place at a Christmas party of sorts, but in some cases, gifts are mailed out, as is the case for the Reddit Annual Secret Santa. Some groups like to include some time for guessing gift-givers identities at the end, while in other cases, gift-givers may choose not to identify themselves.

Quarantine Secret Santa: Secret Food Delivery

This activity adds a twist to the traditional game. Instead of sending a gift, everyone orders food delivery to the address of the person that they have been randomly assigned. Then, an hour or so later, or when everyone's food has arrived, the virtual dinner party and catch-up time begin. This is a great way to lighten up everyone's mood during quarantine and feel a bit more connected emotionally while being physically isolated.

I came up with this idea with a couple of friends of mine when we wanted to go out to catch up after not seeing each other for almost a year. However, restaurants and bars were only open for take-out and, in some cases, delivery. We thought about doing that and then having a picnic outside, but the other inconvenience was that two of our friends would be unable to come due to travel restrictions and the unavailability of flights.

At around that time, I was browsing through Reddit and saw a comment about some kind of summer-related gift exchange. I thought that it would be cool to combine those two activities—a dinner party and an exchange—and Quarantine Secret Santa was born! I later saw that others had already done similar events, but ours was unique in its own way, and I'd like to share it here so that others may brighten up their time in isolation.

How It Works

The process is quite similar to an actual Secret Santa. You'll need to have a group of friends, relatives, or maybe even work colleagues that you'd like to catch up with. I personally did it with some close friends, but any group of people that you would enjoy going to a dinner or a picnic with works just fine. It's also preferred for all those involved to live in the same (or at least similar) time zones. This way, everyone can enjoy their dinner at a "normal" time.

This activity can also be done internationally, but this may make it difficult to agree on a budget since food prices vary dramatically across the globe, along with time differences.

Everyone should also have access to a food delivery app, such as SkipTheDishes or UberEats. In some cases, it may be possible to order directly from a restaurant.

The rest of it is pretty much like regular Secret Santa. Those participating can create a food-related wishlist, which should also include dietary restrictions and meal types that they wouldn't like to receive. Since the dinner party is virtual in this scenario, everyone will need to share their address as well.

Unlike traditional Secret Santa, in this version, the actual ordering takes place right before the start of the online dinner party. Of course, it's a good idea to plan in advance so that you don't have to frantically search for something to buy for your giftee.

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The event itself can involve a guessing part at the beginning, which was what we did. Or you could choose to keep it anonymous till the end! The dinner party can include whatever you would do at a face-to-face event, but in this case, it'll all have to be virtual. Use a program like Zoom or Google Hangouts to dine together virtually. makes it easy to randomly choose your giftee and share your wishlist and address with the other participants. And best of all, this service is free to use! makes it easy to randomly choose your giftee and share your wishlist and address with the other participants. And best of all, this service is free to use!

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Choose your group. This needs to be done first since you'll have to know who's involved and how many people are included before drawing names. Also, if you don't know who's going to participate, then it may become challenging to schedule the virtual event.
  2. Schedule a time when the secret food delivery and a virtual dinner party will take place. This step shouldn't be too complicated if all of the participants are living in the same time zones and are mostly staying at home due to the lockdown.
  3. Draw names, define a budget, and share addresses and wishlists. It is totally possible to do this completely online. Any Secret Santa selector website should be able to take care of your needs. This is the one that we used, and it was the only thing we needed since it has an integrated wishlist section and the option for participants to add their addresses.
  4. Prepare for the event. It's a good idea to plan your giftee's meal in advance and check availabilities, allergens (if applicable), and delivery options. If it's just going to be a casual get-together with some friends, then less planning may be required. You can just have a fun, spontaneous time and reconnect with those you care about!
  5. Around one hour before the scheduled start time, order your giftee's meal. Depending on what your group agrees on, it can be just the main course or a side and dessert as well. What you choose doesn't matter, but everyone should be aware of the rules so that no one receives less than the others. When you set your delivery address, don't forget to add a note to the restaurant or delivery person to hide your name and not call out your name when they deliver the meal. Just give them a short explanation. Based on my experience, they'd be happy to accommodate you. It may also be possible to add your giftee's name as the recipient.
  6. Guess your secret food deliverer (optional). My group included this part before diving into our meals, and it was quite fun, although no one was able to successfully guess their secret Santa.
  7. Enjoy your virtual dinner party on a webcam using Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, or another program!

Have Fun!

The lockdown has taken a toll on all of us to some extent. It is extremely difficult to stay confined to your home for months on end, especially when the weather's nice and the only thing that you want to do is enjoy yourself outside.

However, the pandemic is still far from over, and we must do what we can to cope with the situation while keeping ourselves and others safe and, at the same time, taking care of our mental health.

Hosting a virtual get-together with friends with a secret food delivery element can help you distract yourself from the routine of quarantine life and also reconnect with those that you care about. I hope you all enjoyed reading about Quarantine Secret Santa, and if you end up hosting your own virtual dinner party, let me know how it goes!

© 2020 Janisa


Want Cockhold from Philippines on July 25, 2020:

yeah I Love it too

Liz Westwood from UK on July 23, 2020:

This sounds like a great idea. I love the twist on the original concept.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 23, 2020:

Your idea is a unique way to share a fun time with friends during this pandemic. We are currently sharing cooked and baked items with some of our neighbors. We do stay socially distant by letting them know ahead of time and putting the food on chairs or benches outside their homes. While we cannot sit down and enjoy meals together right now, it is still a way to brighten our lives a bit by sharing.

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