I’ve been getting into the Christmas spirit fully this year, and am taking part in not one, not even two, but THREE Secret Santas! For two of these we’ve been using online Secret Santa Generators rather than the old-fashioned (and riskier!) technique of pulling out of a hat, so I thought I’d compare and review them both.
I’ve been taking part in the North West Bloggers gift swap, where there are 40 bloggers involved and Karen (Grumpyishmum) has been organising this using (probably) the most well known Secret Santa website – Elfster. As I’m not the organiser myself I can’t comment on how Elfster has been from that point of view, but I can share my experiences as a gift exchange participant.
Elfster is definitely a fun-looking website, and works hard to create the festive excitement of a gift exchange with friendly emails inviting you to join the exchange, a bright pink site, pictures of elves and more.
Once you sign up (I did this after responding to my invite email to join this specific gift exchange) you get a personal Elfster profile, which means you can take part in multiple gift exchanges using the same profile. What’s great about Elfster is that for each gift swap there is a timeline for people’s updates and for general chatting, which makes it a very sociable site – and in this case, because we’re all bloggers who may not know each other, this has been a nice feature.
Then there’s the wishlist function. Ah the wishlist. I think this is simply supposed to be a source of inspiration for your Santa pairings, but somehow on Elfster the wishlist seems to have evolved into a full Pinterest-style system of linking to specific products you like. Depending on how active you are on Elfster this could very easily end up as a very long list indeed! Not only do I not really need another outlet for creating wishlists (I’m a blogger after all) I’d also say that setting up a wishlist on Elfster is actually pretty confusing – many of the participents on this gift swap found it too confusing to bother.
When I was organising the Secret Santa within my group of friends I initially looked at using Elfster, but for me there was a big problem. As the organiser I did not want to ruin the surprise for myself by having access to the full list of who had drawn who. I wanted to be just as much a part of the group as everyone else, and Drawnames.co.uk very helpfully made it very clear in their FAQs that the organiser does not know who has drawn which name!
It was very easy to set up a Secret Santa using Draw Names. I needed everyone’s email addresses initially, and everyone was sent an email invite to the gift swap. I had the option to set exclusions, which I used to prevent siblings from drawing each other (something we’d agreed was a good idea) and once everyone had accepted the names were automatically drawn and emailed out.
As with Elfster there is a wishlist function, but it is much more basic. It’s just a simple hand-typed list – imagine that! What could be simpler?
Overall it does look a lot less fancy than Elfster and you get fewer email notifications, but I thought the functionality was all there and it did exactly what I needed it to.